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Review: Reprieve – “No Signal”

Five By Two Records is the gift that keeps on giving.

First, they introduced one of Lowell’s most promising young acts — Circus Trees. Then, they reinvigorated the fledgling career of bass phenom Aaron Garcia and his now solo project Pillbook.

Now, the tight knit family of collaborating Greater Lowell musicians have coalesced again to form the hard rocking orchestra that is Reprieve. With their debut single, “No Signal,” these guys have positioned themselves as a supergroup, of sorts, of the youngest movers and shakers in the local scene.

Popping into existence at a cryptically advertised show in May, Reprieve features frontman Richie Downs, whose Five By Two connections landed him a guest appearance on Circus Tree’s recent debut EP. On drums, there’s Dakota Tresback, who historically collaborated with Downs in his now defunct band At the Heart of It. Likewise Reprieve features guitarist and At the Heart of It alumnus Chris Collins before then rounding out its lineup with a pair of other Five By Two familiars. Eoghan McCarthy, the older brother and musical mentor to the Circus Trees sisters, plays guitar while Garcia himself locks things down on bass.

Synthesizing the disparate yet similar sounds of all the musicians that fill its lineup, Reprieve boasts a complicated sonic personality that it showcases brilliantly on “No Signal.”

The track opens with a simple guitar riff that subtly builds towards “No Signal’s” first big drop. Even that simplicity, however, hardly borders on intimacy. Instead, those early guitar parts and the vocals that creep in alongside them ring through thick reverb filters and echo pedals.

This almost stadium ready sound truly shines, however, when that previously mentioned big drop finally comes. Downs breaks out an unmistakable scream. Nearly atonal, he moves with the music by simply changing the volume of his cries. He imbues every word he croaks with a sense of blistering desperation refusing to lay even typical screamo vocals. No, his voice cracks and gasps with perfect imperfection.

Meanwhile, the dueling guitars of McCarthy and Collins dance spectacularly with each other, laying complementary riffs and chord progressions that sometimes overlap. Other times, they enter into entrancing call and response patterns.

Then there’s Garcia’s bass.

Indeed showing, through his other projects, a mastery of playing the bass like a lead guitar, Garcia, under the Reprieve banner, is a musician wrestling with instinct. At times, he’s slapping out driving rhythms tightly in line with Treshback’s drumming. Other times, he stomps on his pedals and jumps into the melodic side of “No Signal,” mirroring or otherwise augmenting the work of McCarthy and Collins. Like Downs vocals, however, this plays not as inconsistency or confusion, but artful fluidity, keeping “No Signal” moving along at a breakneck pace that feels far faster than its midrange BPM.

Just a few months after bursting out of the ashes of At the Heart of It within the forge that is Five By Two Records, Reprieve are clearly are not interested in taking things slow, even if they’re rocking to mid-tempo postrock rhythms.

After all, they know who they are.