Teach Me Equals – Knives in the Hope Chest
By Ben Allen
The 2014 debut recording by Teach Me Equals is a bold, visionary glimpse into the future of pop music. The duo combine traditionally orchestral instruments with samples and noise to create a hypnotic, dreamlike soundscapes.
Greg Bortnichak’s hushed, understated voice is perfectly complimented by bandmate Erin Murphy’s stunningly beautiful vocal delivery. Nowhere is this more evident than the third verse of “Coelacanth” where Murphy’s voice stands practically alone as she sings “Now I was young when I first met the sea,” her cadence pitch perfect and astounding.
“Swallow the Smoke” is the most instantly engaging track with a galloping drum loop and a chorus comprised of a guitar riff accompanied by “ooohs” and “ahhhs.” Three minutes in, the song quiets down to minimal violin and cello interplay, gradually building to an orgasmic climax before the rhythm drops. The chorus is infectious and you’ll find it implanted in your cerebral cortex for the foreseeable future.
Album closer “Lullaby For Piano” features multilayered vocals which become hypnotic through repetition. While there’s no piano on the track, it does sound like something you’d sing to soothe a toddler waking from a hellish nightmare.
At times the dense atmospherics and electronic percussion recall Kid A and Amnesiac era Radiohead or perhaps what The xx would sound like if they were more musically informed. The lack of a traditional drummer is only noticed when the rhythm sounds too much like a dusty, old metronome or a Casio keyboard as is the case on “As the Crow Flies.”
Knives in the Hope Chest is a stunning initial statement and feels as though it were produced by a much more seasoned band. There’s something new and groundbreaking here. If redefining pop was their goal, Teach Me Equals has succeeded, leaving only the question of what they are capable of accomplishing next. – (9/10)
Teach Me Equals play Seattle’s Cafe Racer January 22 with Red Rumsey, the latest project from Vern of Unwound