The sudden departure of a band member is a disruptive event that can have a severe impact on a group’s creative output. Many times it even spells the end of a band and it is rare that a musical outfit is able to continue with the same energy as before. With their fourth album Waves, the Boston-based instrumental outfit Pray For Sound have done just that and delivered a masterpiece that maintains the continuous growth that marks their discography.

Already from the first tones of lead single “All The Days” it is apparent that Pray For Sound have lost neither their voice nor their spirit. Thematically speaking, Waves is a continuation of the main themes in the Pray For Sound-discography; Duality and Transition. This conceptual motif started in 2012 with Monophonic, which explored the transition of hearing through both ears to only hearing through one ear. Sophomore album Dreamer (2014) followed the process of waking up through the different stages of dreaming, while Everything Is Beautiful (2016) explored the dichotomy of dark and light.

Inspiration for the concept behind Waves came directly from the album’s recording process, which proved to be quite an ordeal. Mid-way through the writing of the album Chris Larocque decided to leave the band, depriving the band of one of their three guitarists—a feat that formed a recognisable part of their sound. Furthermore a heinous back injury prevented other guitarist Nick Stewart to fully participate in the writing process. In the end, the writing and recording of Waves turned into an effort to contribute to Nick’s rehabilitation process through the healing power of music, and by intently focusing on the positive in the face of hardship, Waves became an album about life’s ups and downs in general.

This positivity is reflected in the music, which hearkens back to the more upbeat moments of the band’s sophomore album Dreamer and the light side of Everything Is Beautiful. Where the latter could be considered too dense with its complex inter-referencing melodies and chord progressions, Waves takes a more direct approach which allows the compositional qualities to become more directly accessible. 

This album bears the mark of maturity with the freshness of youth, and this is what makes Waves such a pleasure to listen to—its sophistication is subtle yet discernible.

The songs are characterised by a myriad of catchy melodies characterised by clear tones and carefully arranged in traditional song structures. The music is accessible and uplifting at its peaks, while intensely soothing in its quieter moments. Each song creates a perfect little world for the listener to revel in—from the beautiful slide guitar on “The Canyon” to the pristine melodies of “Julia”—and this album is sure to take the listener out of their misery and make their darkest days appear brighter.

It seems that Pray For Sound are surprisingly unhampered by the loss of their third guitar player. Many of the parts that were originally conceived for Chris were converted to analog synthesizers which enhance the still fantastic interplay of guitars which is still very essential to the sound of this band. The presence of beats and synths is also a beaten track for this band but they have expanded its use even further, letting in influences from pop and EDM genres into their writing.

From left to right: Bruce Malley (guitars), Nick Stewart (guitars), Steve Aliperta (drums) and Joe Aylward (bass). Photo: Chris Larocque.

Highlights include the techno stylings in Steve Aliperta’s drumming on the title track as well as the subtle synthesizer embellishments near the end of “Talus”, but there are many more moments that portray the influence of contemporary pop music that blend perfectly with the chord progressions and rhythm changes, which nevertheless contain unequivocal references to their previous records. For example “Wren” functions as an intro to “The Canyon” by mirroring its chord progression, similar to “The Light in Your Eyes”/“Anything Can Be” on Everything Is Beautiful, while the intro to “The Mountain” perfectly captures the atmosphere of acoustic album Waiting Room, expanding its ambient qualities to a full band sound.

As such Pray For Sound prove to have a compositional style that is instantly recognisable and which they can apply to any material without making it sound tired or worn out. This album bears the mark of maturity with the freshness of youth, and this is what makes Waves such a pleasure to listen to—its sophistication is subtle yet discernible. With Waves, Pray For Sound managed to turn their setbacks into steps forward, presenting an album that sees them surpass themselves yet again. While remaining true to their identity, their dedication to growth is unprecedented, and this is what makes them one of the most accomplished bands in the instrumental rock genre.

This album is… ***captivating.

Waves will be released on November 8 through A Thousand Arms, Dunk! Records, and Post. Recordings. The album is available for pre-order in vinyl and CD formats via Dunk! Records (EU) and A Thousand Arms (US).

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