Album Review: Europa – Small Steps

Europa Small Steps
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It’s instantly clear that Florida act Europa have paid plenty of time and attention to the production of new record Small Steps. Their music, comprised of many complex layers and glitches, travels along wildly erratic paths, despite being easy to listen to. Think along the lines of Circa Survive and Coheed & Cambria crossed with Postal Service.

If I had to pigeon-hole them, I’d lump them in with prog-rock. The songs take wild twists and turns, switching time signatures, veering off onto new tangents, and throwing all kinds of effects at you. And they have a 14 minutes song, which counts as an automatic entry into the genre by virtue of its length alone.

Turns out this was a deliberate move. Cory Worsley shares: “The prevailing theme for use when writing this record was progress. Progress musically, personally and in the world as a whole. It can be easy to look around the world and feel perplexed as to the state we’re living in but this album was a way for us to remind ourselves to take steps in the right directions and that each and every step is important. We have to start near if we’re to go far.”

Europa cover a lot of the spectrum. Take “Lag” for example. Sublime acoustic guitar switches to frenzied tapping and choppy keyboards. And that’s only in the space of a minute. Some songs feel like lullabies, whereas others are fully fledged rippers. And, just when you think you’ve heard all they throw something new at you. The title track is a wonderful piano piece, a peaceful closer that gently lowers you back down to earth after taking you on an interstellar ride.

The vocals are an instrument in their own right. The fuzzy auto-tuned warble is a throwback to Postal Service. Those auto-tuned parts are real ear-worms, with the softly cooed lines like ‘settle down’ or ‘let go’ burying themselves deep into your psyche so that you’ll catch yourself humming along for days. Tracks like “Paths” and “Criminals” have throatier singing, with more aggression, and the intensity increases when we hear anguished screams in “Redesign”. Kristen Peluso guests on a handful of tracks too, which was a great move, because she has a wonderful voice that serves to add more to the variety of timbres.

Small Steps is an ambitious venture. It almost ventures into rock-opera or musical territory, due to the expansive sound, interludes and reprisals. This begins to make sense when you look through a recent playlist Santiago Mesa put together for Alt Dialogue and see that he’s been listening to the Hamilton musical a lot. Or maybe I’m drawing false conclusions… Who knows? But it’s an epic sounding album with some structural similarities to musicals.

Themes and motifs threaded throughout the album give a cohesive and well thought-out feel, which is refreshing in this current day of singles. More and more acts are resorting to pushing out EP’s and singles to cater to people’s short attention spans [This is an interesting discussion in itself. With the nature of streaming, it pays to have singles featured on playlists, but at the same time, albums gain more streams than EPs. But I would suggest that frequent, shorter releases are becoming more commonplace than long albums]. So it feels like a powerful and deliberate statement when a band releases an hour-long album.

It’s good enough that nobody would believe it’s a debut release. Debut full-length, yes, but they already have a few EP’s under their belts. The production is clearly of standard that comes from plenty of time spent tweaking and playing in the the studio.

I imagine that Europa are extremely proud of this release. It’s a solid album, showcasing a wide breadth of talent. 

Europa. Image: Brian Macaione

Europa links:

Website – discovereuropa.net
Facebook – facebook.com/discovereuropa
Instagram – @discovereuropa
Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/artist/08wB1vbFRcknKXhhX8Puj3#_=_
Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPhWcFChXo8l9UbnaPtxNPA
Twitter – twitter.com/discovereuropa
Bandcamp: https://europa.bandcamp.com/

Joseph James

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