Drab Majesty has gone through something of a popularity boom over the last five years or so, moving from more simple song structures and hooks to more expansive and ambitious concepts. As the band expanded from Deb DeMure’s solo work to a duo, the production values and songwriting have steadily evolved and with a striking retro futurist image Drab Majesty really seemed to have struck at just the right time. With three albums under their belt that have fallen somewhere between darkwave, synthpop, and gothic rock, the question since 2019’s Modern Mirror has been where they would go next. This year’s appropriately titled An Object In Motion answers that question through experimentation, as the duo pushes into shoegaze and neo-psychedelia territory with four new tracks. Alongside a brighter, more expansive sound, two of the songs are instrumental only, with the closer stretching out to the fifteen-minute mark. Admittedly the droning, layered approach doesn’t quite stand out as much as Drab Majesty’s more focused hooks, but it’s still exciting to hear them try something different.
An Object In Motion still bears a lot of Drab Majesty’s trademark elements, but it’s clear from opener “Vanity” that the songwriting approach has been shifting towards a different sound. This track begins with softer, airier guitars before opening up into a more expansive, layered melody. It’s a slower, methodical burn that’s a bit freer flowing compared to some of the band’s previous material, but you’ll still hear the occasional synth flourish. There’s still a bit of the mystery and mystique layered in, but the overall sound on this track is much brighter and channels a lot more psychedelic and shoegaze influences. It took a few times through before these layers sunk in, but once they did “Vanity” has been on repeat consistently. From there, An Object In Motion transitions to the first of its instrumental pieces, “Cape Perpetua”. Here, Drab Majesty uses acoustic finger picking and lets layers of hazier, almost Eastern sounding melodies flow outwards. There’s a more trancelike, meditative feel to this piece and it feels like a good interlude and lead-in to “The Skin and the Glove”. This may be one of my favorite songs the group has done in recent memory, as it has the same huge hooks and tight composition as some of their best material but runs it through a jangly pop and psychedelic rock lens. Drab Majesty does let the layers of guitar ebb and flow on this track, and it works well here, keeping the listener engaged without stretching things out too far. “Yield to Force” is where the experimentation truly comes out though, as this fifteen-minute piece goes for droning layers of guitar and synthesizer that have an airier tone. It’s expansive, but admittedly I was hoping for some vocal drone or other approaches layered over top, as the cyclical nature of the layers didn’t quite hold my attention for the entire length.
One of the reasons I wasn’t as keen on the purely instrumental approach of “Yield to Force” is because when there are vocals, Deb DeMure and Mona D haven’t sounded better. This is arguably the most confident both have sounded, and rather than pushing the singing off into the background the performances are front and center on An Object In Motion. Deb’s duet with Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell on “Vanity” is hauntingly beautiful, and the two complement each other perfectly. “The Skin and the Glove” lets Mona D drive for much of the song, and his softer, airier pitch gives off more of an alternative rock or indie rock sound that showcases yet another side of Drab Majesty. Deb’s lower pitch comes booming in for the refrain, and this section has been stuck in my head for days. While this may still be Deb’s vision, I appreciate the duo trading off more on vocals as it not only adds variety but showcases the talents they both bring to the mic.
I originally wondered why An Object In Motion was marketed as a mini-album or EP, but after spending time with it this approach makes sense. Drab Majesty has used this shorter format to experiment and try their hand at sprawling, lengthier instrumentation as they head into new musical territory. This doesn’t stand out quite as much as their more concise, hook driven songwriting, but it makes me interested to see how they incorporate this type of layering and hypnotic psychedelia on future releases. As it stands, this EP still has two of the best songs they’ve done alongside two curious instrumental experiments, so it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of Drab Majesty’s previous material. An Object In Motion is available from Dais Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg