It's like that scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack's character claims he can sell five copies of Beta Band's The Three EPs just by playing "Dry the Rain" in his record store. Whenever I play the opening to Ester Drang's 2001 album, Goldenwest, for friends — an ascending piano line cascading through waterfalls of dripping synths and slide guitar, as the rhythm section locks into an impossibly cool groove begging to be sampled by a beatmaker — they must know immediately what's on the stereo. Works every time.
Formed 1995 in Broken Arrow, Okla., Ester Drang released four albums in the late '90s and early 2000s, illustrating that heavily reverbed space-rock truly pops when paired with heavenly melody. After releasing the surprisingly danceable Roscinate on Jade Tree Records in 2006, the band didn't so much break up, just faded away. Its singer and primary songwriter Bryce Chambers did start Native Lights with Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford, but has mostly kept lowkey until Ester Drang opened some tour dates for Echo & the Bunnymen in 2016 and 2017.
"From the Ruins" opens The Appearances EP, Ester Drang's first new release in 12 years. Noise buzzes underneath a piano melody set to infinite sustain, and a slow-motion ripple of synths and slide guitar emanate from the center, growing in sound yet never quite overpowering the song's velvet-draped beauty. Bryce Chambers' smokey croon fills the air like a lonesome cowboy sailing across a starry abyss — cloaked in reverb, you have no what idea what he's singing, but reckon it's something about the expanding prairie we call the universe.
Across 30 minutes, The Appearances explores these familiar textures, especially the ones heard on Goldenwest and 2003's Infinite Keys, but now the threads are finer than silk. And to sweeten the deal, Ester Drang offers a drop-dead gorgeous cover of "2nd Space Song" by Starflyer 59, one of the band's early influences.
The Appearances comes out Oct. 26 via Clerestory AV.