When I first listened to DRMHLLR‘s Demo, I was preoccupied with one question: where’s the vocalist? The Vancouver four-piece doesn’t have a singer, and this is disorienting since it doesn’t conform to my preconceptions of instrumental music; the group doesn’t play electronica or experimental post rock, nor does it indulge in loose, improvised jamming or noodling solos. Rather, it sounds similar to a lot of contemporary indie rock bands—Plants and Animals, Broken Social Scene—minus the vocalist.

In lieu of vocal melodies, the DRMHLLR’s two guitarists keep their playing melody-driven, opting for lyrical, minimalist leads instead of powerchord bombast. “Baby Tooth Tiger” begins as a sparse guitar riff, before the rhythm section propels it to a seemingly endless, cinematic crescendo (movie producers, take note: you’ve found your theme song). As well as delivering triumphant rock outs, DRMHLLR also has a knack for hypnotic, repetitive grooves. “c41″ is a six-minute, two-chord dirge, beginning with a haunting bass keyboard riff before giving over to chiming surf guitar licks. On “Ice Age,” the rhythm section sits out for over two minutes while the guitarists harmonize over gently purring feedback.

Despite delivering the occasional glorious crescendo, Demo is a sombre listen, more suited to a mellow evening at home than a wild Saturday night. It’s never challenging but always interesting, delivering soothing atmosphere without demanding your full attention.

Demo is only five songs long, and is billed as a demo (duh) EP. But at 35 minutes, it’s actually longer than some full-length releases. It’s self-released, and is currently only available for purchase at shows.
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