Chicago four-piece Starless launched in 2014 with a lineup including members of local bands Beak, the Timeout Drawer, and Our Earth Is a Tomb. This month the four-piece (not to be confused with the Japanese prog band or the Scottish art-pop band of the same name) are releasing their second full-length, Hope Is Leaving You. Their follow-up to 2016’s Deadly Light likewise draws from postrock, shoegaze, metal, and indie rock and shows an adept dynamic range that highlights Starless’s combined experience.
If the postrock movement had an Achilles’ heel, it was its air of emotional distance and calculated abstraction—you might have found it hard to connect to the music, especially if you preferred bands with broken hearts on their ragged sleeves. Starless don’t have this problem; the raw emotion in the harmony vocals of guitarists Jessie Ambriz and Jon Slusher fits perfectly into the band’s elaborate arrangements, establishing a tone of unease, regret, and yearning. The band excel at one of postrock’s best tricks, namely the clean, evocative intro that only barely prepares you for the whirlwind you’ll soon reap; the sparse, quiet sadness of the opening to “All the Winter” builds into a crunchy, epic vortex of squalling guitar. But “Helvetii” opens with effects-laden space-rock howls, breaking this pattern to great dramatic effect. Bassist Alan Strathmann and drummer Quinn Curren anchor the group’s trippiness with solid, grounded, slightly ritualistic rhythms, sometimes playing in counterpoint and sometimes in satisfying unison.
Lyrically and musically, Starless dance all over the map. “Demons” is a gothic cautionary tale with Paradise Lost grandeur and doom-metal chug and throb. The dystopian “Citizen” muses about manipulation and control, using a deceptively bright sound that contrasts with its bone-chilling lyrics: “Called you to secret room, good people / I only want what is best for you people,” Ambriz and Slusher sing. “Guide these hands pressing flesh vapor trails / Got you to believe in fairy tales.” Alison Chesley of Helen Money lends her evocative, cinematic cello soundscapes to two post-apocalyptic songs, “Forest” and “Hunting With Fire.” Recorded at Electrical Audio and Palisades by Sanford Parker and mastered by Colin Jordan at Boiler Room, Hope Is Leaving You has the spaciousness and range to support a multitude of interpretations and variations, and hearing the band play these songs live should be a spectacular experience.
Starless, Anatomy of Habit, Lavisher, Sanford Parker, Sat 9/11, 9 PM, Reggies Music Joint, 2105 S. State, $12, $10 in advance, 21+