Singer Nicole Schneit has a voice that creeps up on you, the sort of subtle but infectious haziness and rasp that turns an understated melody into something that echoes with depth and nostalgia. The new self-titled EP (Catbird Records) from Schneit's band Air Waves (limited to 200 copies and housed behind the lovely cover art above) features 5 songs, without a single misstep or wasted moment.
The music is made for those hours of unwinding; the insomniatic early morning hours after a long night and waiting for the first light. "Gems" is sparingly constructed—just a rough-strummed guitar, some subtly lilting piano, and a steady tambourine—giving full reign to Schneit's voice, which conjures an atmosphere akin to the gaussian soft-focus of Mazzy Star while remaining of no other world but this one. It's interesting: her voice seems to possess some inherent sepia tone, even without the reverb other singers drown themselves in to achieve an ethereal quality.
Only a bit more fleshed-out than "Gems," "Lightning" throws in some drums and harmonies, employing simple imagery to sublimate basic emotions into forces of nature ("Oh I'm gonna be / the lightning that strikes down your tree"). The short and sweet "Kingdom," with its minimal embellishments (some keys that sound like a melodica), is almost like an earthbound Lavender Diamond.
The disc closes with the set's most rollicking number, "Keys," which has some driving drums and darker tones ("the old man died without any pals / his family left before life began"). But throughout the five songs, the lyrics often betray an essential optimism, a readiness—though with weary and tired eyes—to greet the dawn's blinding light.
"Shine On" by Air Waves:
Bonus: here's a muxtape featuring more of the Catbird Records roster.
And here's the band performing "Shine On" at The Apartment:
And just for the hell of it, here's fellow Catbird anti-folksters Forest Fire at The Apartment performing the stupendous tune "Fortune Teller":