"Was it all a daydream?" are the first words that greet us off Ava Luna's
most recent album, Electric Balloon
, which happened to be the exact words that went through my head after my first listen. If you haven't heard of Ava Luna, that's okay, but you should get on that fast because Ava Luna is one of the most sophisticated bands to come out of Brooklyn in the past, I don't know, a long time. The name of the game here is eclecticism. Ava Luna is a band that is hard to pin down from just one listen, hell even two or five or six listens still leaves me confused. The band is extremely active in the Brooklyn arts scene. Singer Carlos Hernandez and drummer Julian Fader have been recording and producing for countless bands in the studio of Brooklyn's underground art hub The Silent Barn, including Palehound and Krill to name a few. Perhaps what's most inspiring about this band is that whether they know it or not, they have acted as role models for the Brooklyn arts scene, promoting local visual artists as much as musical ones.
Ava Luna has managed to conquer one of the many challenges faced by bands in this day and age. They've avoided the dreaded pigeon-hole that so many bands fall into; creating images and molds for a band to fit into once their fan-base has developed expectations. Every band who gets past their debut album struggles with this, and the list of bands who manage to conquer this obstacle are numbered. Ava Luna's variety between albums, between songs on their albums alone, creates an air of uncertainty; a suspenseful drama that you just don't find in many artists. Vocalists Felicia Douglass, Rebecca Kaufman and Carlos Hernandez provide incredible harmonies that almost seem to fall into an RnB/Soul genre before breaking off into something incredibly distant, or dissonant, or loud, or weird as hell. Each vocalist has a unique personality of their own that continues to stand out with each listen. Rebecca Kaufman's half-screaming vocals on "Sears Roebuck M&Ms" sounds like a child having a temper tantrum. Fast Forward to "Hold U" and you've got all three vocalists singing in waves of funk-soul harmonies. "A yellow shape in the living room that you balance out/You set aside the ingredients as I'm coming to/And I slip into states as your hands slip beneath the dirty plates." The lyrical images add to the theme of disjointed rhythms, unexpected turn-arounds and strange dissonances which contrast their consonances with incredible grace.
The rhythm section alone is enough to keep the songs afloat. Ethan Bassford (bass) and Julian Fader (drums) provide incredibly tight and calculated grooves, able and willing to switch rhythms at the drop of a hat. Everything about this band is pinpointed and honed down to an incredibly specific and intentional sound that most bands in the Brooklyn scene would never touch, mostly because of the lo-fi atmosphere so many of those bands prefer. Its no doubt that Jason and Carlos' abilities in the studio are a huge benefit to the band being able to execute their intentions flawlessly; the record sounds as crisp and fine-tuned as any major label album.
I'll conclude with a quote from the great Lester Bangs: "Every great work of art has two faces. One toward its own time, and one towards the future, towards eternity." This definitely speaks to Ava Luna's latest record, and I predict it will speak to their future works as well.