There’s always going to be a disconnect between audiences and instrumental rock, but the fact that it’s seemed to be closing up in recent years has been interesting to see. Arguably the band most responsible for setting those wheels in motion is Polyphia, with a sound striving to blend math-rock, prog and trap with results that mightn’t stick too long but are usually entertaining, and the work they’ve put in to usher newer bands within the scene is worth appreciating. But while Covet do ostensibly fall under that blanket, they’ve been doing a lot of work themselves, primarily in the reputation that their guitarist Yvette Young has garnered for being one of the most technically savvy and diverse musicians around right now. And yet, jut like Polyphia, Covet haven’t really wowed on a long term; their 2018 EP effloresce was good in the vein of more organic, lush math-rock, but the only thing about it that’s really prevailed is the knowledge of how technical it is, rather than any of the work that technicality had gone towards. That sets a precedent for Technicolor that it’s hard to shake off; sure, it’s the band’s first proper instance of vocals in their music, but in what’s still a predominantly instrumental release that’s hasn’t advanced the core components or aesthetic of its sound, it’s hard to see how Covet can pick up real staying power and move past simply having acumen to fall back on.
And sadly, not much of that has changed on Technicolor, though that’s not to say there isn’t some worth in that. Covet really are good at cultivating a vibe and a mood, and when taken on that metric, this is the sort of album that plays well in the same vein as something like tropical house does, where the colour and light are the centralised appeal rather than the foundation for it. But even in Covet’s branching out with their intricacies to increase that vibrancy even further, they’re still yet to latch onto something that can stick in the long term, and that’s where Technicolor really suffers. It’s good for what it is, but what it doesn’t have feels like a glaring omission that’s pretty unavoidable.
Above all though, it’s worth acknowledging that on a technical side, Covet unquestionably know what they’re doing when it comes to grasping their particular sense of melody. In contrast to Polyphia, the face that Covet’s constructional palette has fewer acute angles and snaps does distinguish them in that regard, instead focusing on more pastel shades that make for a softer sound overall, almost leaning into post-rock when they get a bit more atmospheric and hazy. What’s more, they’re capable of building a decent range of sounds using that style, from the spidery flourishes of atreyu that have more than a hint of emo to them in their more washed-out shades, to moments where their more contemplative side is allowed to flow which arguably yields some of their best work in the woozy up-and-down of predawn and especially the layered strings and synths on odessa. Within their particular sound, the less frantic approach does a lot to help Covet stand out, as well as serving as a clearer showcase for each member’s individual talents. Young is the easy standout with the sort of impossibly detailled noodling that lends a sense of starry-eyed wonder to wherever it’s present, and with David Adamiak’s chunky bass and an impressive dexterity from drummer Forrest Rice, there’s really potency when each element comes together on a track like aries where the footing between each member is pretty equal. As for Young’s vocals on parachute and farewell, she has the light-dappled tone to fit in with everything around her even if she doesn’t have an enormous amount of presence, and the overall prettiness and easygoing flow of it makes them an agreeable addition, even if they’re only used sparingly.
Ultimately, it’s zeroing in on that sense of relaxation that Covet’s greatest strength here, and being more dreamlike in tone while having the band allowed to flaunt their raw skill comes across as the ideal middle ground for them. But that also leads to the issue of the middle ground not leaving many concessions towards accessibility or memorability available, and that puts Technicolor in a place where it’s not precisely forgettable, but it misses the benefit of clearer hooks or more definition in where it’s going. To bring up Polyphia again, they had a similar issue on their last album, but it was the more contemporary presentation and production that felt so razor-tight that at least makes the odd passage or motif pop into memory every once in a while. By comparison, Covet’s appeal is more moment-to-moment, and while that have its advantages in a live setting, on record it doesn’t hold nearly as fast, not helped by the fact that the intricacies within it don’t lend themselves to sticking in the same way a solid hook can. And that’s not to criticise those intricacies either, but in the context of an album like this where they’re primarily what’s being sold, that alone can be difficult to form a connection with and leaves Technicolor at a disadvantage as a result.
It’s not like that’s a problem exclusive to Covet either, but in the way they present themselves and use their instrumentation in a more open-ended sense, it’s more noticeable with them. It’s even more of a shame when Technicolor does have a lot about it to like, and when it’s actually playing, the lushness and vibrancy of Covet’s compositions really are quite beautiful and easy to get lost in. But an album does need to be judged on how it fares outside of that context as well as in it, and when Technicolor can’t possibly recreate the same sensation when it isn’t actively being listened to, that does unfortunately knock it down a few rungs. Still, for blissful summer listening, Covet really are delivering some good stuff, and even if it doesn’t hold steady long after it’s over, the time spent with it can be true joy.
For fans of: TTNG, toe, Delta Sleep
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Technicolor’ by Covet is released on 5th June on Triple Crown Records.