It’s hard to bring up Covet without also mentioning Polyphia in the same breath, even if you don’t really want to. Nothing against Polyphia, especially after how excellent their last album was, but as the nominal flag-bearers for super-modern, genre-jamming instrumental prog, they’ve effectively subsumed even somewhat like acts within the conversation. It’s not even like them and Covet are even that similar either, outside of that same very broad descriptor that hardly constricts individuality. For one, Covet have steered well clear of trap and electronic sides, favouring the more lush, almost math-rock-esque approach that’s the better fit for guitarist Yvette Young’s particular stripe of virtuosity. Fundamentally, they occupy the diametric ends of their genre spectrum; whereas Polyphia were reminding you that you will die on their last album, Covet’s new one is breaching its catharsis through the joy of life.
Not that you’d know at first, seeing how coronal kicks things off on perhaps the most un-Covet note in the band’s catalogue. The slower, grungier pace and the obscured cloud of vocals play far closer to ‘90s revivalism that anything Covet would traditionally touch, as a strange false start that’s not indicative of anything to come. Well, maybe that’s not strictly true. On an album primarily focused on courting the vibes of exuberance and wind-of-your-hair freedom, it’s a shaggier approach to that but does ultimately get there. With a bit of fine-tuning and peeling back layers, the hallmarks of Covet would likely show themselves. Namely, the edges embrace fuzziness instead of hyper-focus, and tonally and texturally, it’s much warmer and more vibrant.
If you still insist on a knee-jerk Polyphia comparison, it’s Covet themselves who are making that the most difficult to defend. catharsis is unquestionably its own thing, as it blooms and dazzles and fizzes in its abstract, impressionistic ways. Crucially, there’s humanity here, notably coming from Young who deftly avoids being reduced to a tableture machine and actually manages to withhold some emotion in her playing. In a song like firebird, named after the car her mother bought after emigrating to the US, the glorious brightness streaming out is so potent and rich. The fact that a lot of these songs are also named after cars rarely feels like a coincidence; it’s the notion of headlong, unrestrained freedom that’s so intrinsic to Covet as a band, and what defines them above all else.
That’s the sort of thing that’s best captured when the instrumentation can get more intricate and spiralling, without tipping over into being clinical. Covet nail that balance wholeheartedly, on songs like bronco and merlin that dial into an indie / math-rock warmth, as opposed to sparking but ultimately clandestine pyrotechnics. It helps that Covet feel like a band instead of just a vehicle for endless guitar chicanery. Jessica Burdeaux is a terrific drummer whose own backflipping litheness in performance on vanquish or merlin speaks for itself, and Brandon Dove’s bass-work—while having fewer obvious explosive bells and whistles than his bandmates’ contributions—holds its own perfectly well, with the distinction of being mixed to actually have presence.
Toss in a perfectly timed and blended saxophone line from Minus The Bear’s Alex Rose on the closer lovespell, and catharsis brings in so much in a living, breathing, critically jubilant prog-pop package. The vibe and the rush are so contagious throughout, marrying what Covet had already airtightly perfected with new, cogent augmentations. There really isn’t another band who sounds like this, in prog or otherwise, and any sidelining simply isn’t necessary or fair. Especially on the verge of summer, an album like catharsis fits every criteria you could want—it’s fun; it’s intelligent; it’s got such a rich and diverse pool of sounds; and it seldom wastes time in getting to all to factors that make Covet such a wonderful presence to have around.
For fans of: Plini, Delta Sleep, Strawberry Girls
‘catharsis’ by Covet is released on 7th April on Triple Crown Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall