Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps’ journey commenced about 11 years ago when the two were still in middle school, and since then there’s been no looking back. After honing their synth-pop sound for years in Portland’s underground party scene, the duo, dubbed Wampire, has finally released its debut full length, Curiosity, which finds Tinder and Phipps maturing in surprising and charming ways.
Ditching their grungy tone and opting for a more airy, upbeat sound, Curiosity does exactly what it’s supposed to do: it keeps you on your toes. Placing a greater emphasis on psychedelic guitar tones, the album sees the band teaming up with producer and Unknown Mortal Orchestra bassist Jacob Portrait, whose presence is immediately felt on the opening track “The Hearse.” The song starts off with heavy droning synths, before switching the beat up all of a sudden and switching to a full-fledged guitar freak-out. The band finds a way to find cohesion within the chaos.
As the title implies, Wampire isn’t afraid to make some curious digressions. If the band was aiming to be as unpredictable as possible, well, mission accomplished. While “The Hearse” is sunny, buoyant and poppy, the following song, “Orchards,” is steady and placid. “It’s so fun to be so goddamn young,” Tinder sings as guitars blare and what sound like maracas shake in the background. “Spirit Forest” combines the band’s fondness of heavy bass and spacey synths, coming off sounding a bit like Ariel Pink at his most playful.
That sense of fun and exploration doesn’t let up as the album heads into its second half. “Trains,” one of the clear highlights, is a delightfully easy-going love letter of a pop song. The steady drums create the perfect beat for the band to croon over and majestic guitar strums provide the perfect mood for softly swaying in place. “You’re driving me insane/I was waiting for your train,” sings Tinder as the song sputters off into nothingness, the drum falling off beat and the guitars slinking out of tune. It’s almost as if the band got bored with the song, which fits with the group’s ADHD tendencies. The album jumps all over the place, showing little interest in staying true to a single genre or style, but even in the darker, heavier moments these songs are unified by an urge to please and the untamable desire to move onto the next thing as soon as possible.