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Album Review

by Punches

Arch HIll Recordings

Review Date
15th August 2011
Reviewed by
Nich Cunningham

At the risk of sounding facetious: it would seem that Etheria is the product of much thought. As a matter of fact, it's not often that an album summarises itself so succinctly in its title, even if unintentionally. But ethereal the debut album from Auckland duo Punches is, spacious even.

Following up their well received eponymous 2006 EP, Punches have produced an ambitious work with Etheria.  There are a variety of tracks, both in terms of instrumentation and style, and the songs generally avoid common structural formula. It’s a smoothly flowing record, united by the common thread of the rich, breathy and often densely layered vocals while the instrumental base shifts from band-style guitar/bass/drums through to more stripped back eclectic and processed material. The arrangements are often left sparse with subtle embellishments, which maintains the openness of the record.

If this record is ethereal then it’s probably a night sky rather than a sunny day - there is a darkness here that provides emotional weight to the songs. This is especially evident in Cold Night, which slowly builds from a droning heavy bed of massed voices and crescendo cymbals into a lurching mass before falling away to a single element in order to repeat the process. This kind of dynamic is used to good effect in a number of instances on this album providing weight and drama that translates into an engaging listen.

This is a quality local release. In Etheria, Punches have produced an album that's contemporary yet not easily dated and familiar but not derivative. It's just a good collection of carefully constructed and well produced songs that rewards repeated listening.


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