For some time now Asheville,NC has had a reputation as a safe-haven for all things hippie and bohemian. Phish concerts and “festie” types aside, Asheville has done a pretty bang-up job of giving the world a home for creative weirdos of all varieties (in the south, no less).
One of the brightest satellites launched from Planet Vanderbilt in recent years is Soft Opening. Now operating as a quartet, Soft Opening have released their most fully-realized piece of work to date, 2011’s self-titled 12″. Steeped long and deep in psychedelia and heavy headspaces, this swirly six-song slab ventures off the beaten path while always feeling oddly familiar (even if it is a couple inches off the ground). Extremely heavy without ever swaying into metal territory, and roaming without ever dabbling in jam band wankery, Soft Opening explore the depth and breath of the mighty RIFF; letting it hang, float and crash, making use of every available second of space, filling it with think tone, gossamer strands of sustain, or simply letting the Space itself do the talking.
Inevitably, comparisons are drawn to give the listener a better sense of comfort and understanding. In this case, think Earth if they had gone their more recent pastoral route but never forgot that they were once the loudest, most crushing band on their name-sake planet. Couple that with a swig or three from whatever mystery jug the guys in Sun Dial have been carrying around for 20 years and a healthy appreciation of under-appreciated classic rock, and you start to get an idea where Soft Opening are coming from. Despite the good company, comparisons only act as direction signs (and at their worst, mile markers).
While one can definitely pick out a couple obvious influences from a spin of Soft Opening, Soft Opening themselves do not actually sound like those bands. Likewise, I know of no band that sounds like Soft Opening. They may be drinking from the same strange well as their heady forefathers, but S.O. have decidedly spiked their drink with something else, potent and mysterious.
The album itself is only available on spacey, turquoise-swirl wax (pressed by Palomino Records just down the road in Shepherdsville,KY!), and housed in gorgeously esoteric hand-screened covers.
It’s been quite a while since I came across a record that demanded to be listened to over and over and over…this one has only left the turntable long enough to be flipped.