Home Read Albums Of The Week: Empath | Visitor

Albums Of The Week: Empath | Visitor

The Philadelphia outfit colour the noisy pop-punk of their sophomore full-length with plenty of clatter and cacophony — not to mention layers of ambient soundscapery.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Empath began in 2016 when Garrett Koloski, Emily “Jem” Shanahan and Catherine Elicson moved into a house in West Philadelphia together, with Randall Coon joining shortly after. Even with the simple vision to shred, there’s a natural sensitivity in the way Empath communicates. Between the contrast of Elicson’s lush, almost delicate vocals, Koloski’s boisterous drumming, and the half-harmonious wash of guitar and Shanahan and Coon’s synths, Empath equip us with a healthy dose of emotional repose.

On Visitor, Empath sought to one-up the range of sounds heard on their previous album. During what he calls West Philly Christmas (the week undergrads at UPenn move out and leave piles of high-quality garbage out on the street) Coon recovered a suitcase organ with a sound bank from a Jamiroquai record preset on it, which he later played on the album, in addition to running samples on Ableton and acquiring a brand-new synth;Shanahan, who plays a ’90s children’s keyboard, had Portrait filter it in such a way that it sounded “less childlike”; Elicson’s vocals, buried deep in the mix on Active Listening: Night on Earth, take center stage; and Koloski’s drums are as capacious as they might be in a live set.

“Our approach to songwriting, and what we constantly try to improve upon, is finding the meeting ground between all of our distinct points of view and ideas we are trying to achieve sonically and conceptually,” Elicson says. “We never want to be tied down to one type of song or sound, and we love all kinds of improvisational music. We try to fit everything we love into each song, and hopefully produce something new and exciting through that process of synthesis.”

Visitor attempts to fill space, both physical and psychic, visible and invisible. The album’s cover was photographed by Andrew Emond, who captures the interiors of abandoned buildings. “The spaces look lived in and altered by humans but no humans are present,” Elicson reflects. “The songs are similar in the sense that they talk about the ‘space’ between people. They’re not about specific people per se, but they illustrate the feelings people leave between each other, these subjective experiences. You can think of Visitor as a soundtrack to the memories and feelings that remain in places people have left behind.”

Empath included a series of samples on Visitor, all of which cohere to make the album sound as if it’s disrupting ambient noise. “Audio was taken from films, Minecraft, a cassette of nature sounds from the bayou, recordings of an air conditioner, and a church choir heard through the walls of the warehouse we rehearse in,” Elicson says. “It’s a collage of sounds intended to produce a feeling of hearing life through the walls.” Visitor attempts to bridge the space between. It’s an impossible task, surely, but the result of their efforts produces a transcendent experience all its own.”