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The dreamiest destinations require a bit of a journey. This is especially true when the destination is one of the epic crescendos that dominate Drop Electric’s third full-length release. On Lost in Decay, the band builds nine vivid environments on a foundation of whirring synths and airy chants, each drifting between the eerie and the ethereal en route to a hook-heavy endpoint.
Drop Electric has garnered plenty of praise since its 2009 debut, Finding Color in the Ashes. But instead of sticking to the formula that got the group nods from NPR and headlining gigs at the 9:30 Club, the D.C. sextet has consistently chosen to expand its sound. While Finding Color in the Ashes was predominantly an instrumental effort, using roaring guitars and pummeling percussion to create climactic soundscapes à la Mogwai, the band’s sophomore effort, 2013’s Waking Up to the Fire, is more electro-pop quirk than expansive post-rock. The change in style was largely brokered by the addition of synths and vocalist Kristina Reznikov, whose spine-tingling tone mimics that of Lower Dens’ Jana Hunter and even Sigur Rós’s Jónsi.
Lost in Decay is a calculated combination of these previous releases. The drama and power of Drop Electric’s debut is there, plus the poppy structure and vocals of its follow-up. The result is the band’s strongest release to date. Unfortunately, the self-released LP also marks the departure of Reznikov, who left the group in 2014 after completing the album.
Reznikov’s vocals are the centerpiece of Lost in Decay. Hypnotic when paired with swirling electronic samples and layered croons, haunting when left without accompaniment, her voice sets the vibe from start to finish. On album opener “Flee the Circus,” she slinks into the song after an intro that shifts from wispy electronics to steady, driving percussion. Her tone melts into the atmospheric combo as it builds, keeping the swell from growing too forceful or affected.
Still, the band’s penchant for theatrics can’t always be subdued by Reznikov’s vocal prowess. At times, the tracks on Lost in Decay come off a little melodramatic. This is especially true on the slow-moving “Regal Blood,” which borders on repetitive. The track opens with some brooding, cascading synths and a hushed sample, eventually bursting into a cinematic chorus whose soapy, monotonous structure just kind of drags.
The bulk of Lost in Decay avoids this overindulgence, though, and opts for structures rich with muted flourishes and driving guitars. The title track hits all the band’s strengths, combining poppy electronics, a passionate build, and Reznikov’s vocals with a chorus of backing croons. The result is a jubilant earworm that calls for multiple listens. “Rival Churches” is also a standout; instead of skewing euphoric like most of the other tracks, it’s the darkest of the bunch, opening with Reznikov humming “We are doomed” against a backdrop of quiet piano before exploding into a heavy wash of sinister guitars.
The record closes with “End Game,” a regal ballad that asks listeners “Are you with me?” It’s a cleansing, bright addition to the album’s formidable collection of crests and textures. But the song’s placement illustrates the band’s grip on its audience’s psyche and mastery of the lighter elements that balance its weighted post-rock sound. It’s an evolution that finds just the right equilibrium. Listeners would be smart stick with this group on the road to its next venture.
Drop Electric plays the All Good Festival in West Virginia on July 9.