Sound Track

Sky Lake is still in its infancy — with only a handful of local appearances and a few rough demos on MySpace — which makes the passion and vision of their live show all the more impressive. 

Sky Lake played a set that was at turns sparse and understated, ferocious and soaring.

Filling a vacant slot left by the now defunct Ventricles (two of that band’s members make up half of Sky Lake) the band recently appeared before a light crowd at the LAB, quickly silencing the room with the breezy, delicate melody of “Father Time” and captivating the audience throughout the remainder of the hour-long performance. The only misstep came when singer/guitarist Andrew Williams began the wrong song and was interrupted by cellist Benjamin Pates who pointed down at the set list. “OK,” Williams responded with a grin, “fair enough.”

Relaxed and at ease before the attentive crowd, the band quietly continued through a stellar set that was at times sparse and understated, equally ferocious and soaring at others — thanks in large part to Pates’ droning cello and Williams’ atmospheric tenor. Imagine if Devendra Banhart and Thom Yorke had a baby, blessed with the former’s talent for bluesy, freewheeling folk-rock and the latter’s penchant for ethereal sound-scapes delivered with driving intensity. Now you’re getting the picture.

Williams’ rhythmic guitar and fluid, lighter-than-air vocal delivery provided the backbone for more subdued tracks like “Evaporate,” whose trance-inducing melody sent the room into a six-minute haze. But it was the inspired, psychedelic-folk of tracks like “Shine” that showcased the band’s full potential. As Pates unleashed a fury of chest crushing cello over drummer Christopher Ballard’s understated rhythms and multi-instrumentalist Ross Gentry’s alternating key and bass duties, Williams writhed, straining to deliver the gritty blues.

Still, the performance was more than just the music. Disorienting black and white video – including a blazing forest fire, reflections from a choppy pool of water and the view from a moving train window — swirled behind the stage, transforming the room into an indie-rock acid test, giving early indications that Sky Lake is as much a concept as a band.

Closing the set with the dizzying rhythms and rapid, spoken-word vocals of “Oil and Water,” Sky Lake quietly thanked the audience for listening and promptly exited the stage, seemingly unaware of the impression they had just made. In a music scene overwhelmed by Americana and bluegrass, Sky Lake’s impassioned blend of indie-rock and psychedelic folk is an exciting and refreshing change of pace from a band that’s just getting started.

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