Milking Diamonds is an indie/alternative duo formed in 2007 by husband and wife team: Katherine Scholl, vox/keys and Sam French Jr., vox/guitar. Their new EP, Migratorius follows up their debut release, 2009’s SAMMY nominated Surface When It’s Clear. Migratorius was recorded at WAAV Studios in Syracuse and mastered by the magic hands and ears of Jocko (Jason Randall) at More Sound Recording Studio, also in Syracuse.
Their Bandcamp page reminded me of a genre-splitting name from the nineties, dream pop. I discounted it at the time because it was always coat-tailed with shoegazer, to me that wasn’t a match. Dream pop works well when you have a duo creating sounds like these. There’s a distinctly atmospheric feel that runs through all of it, counterpoint with guitars, keys and voices, all leaning on the “echo” modulations and layers.
“Obvious” opens with a staccato guitar line that quickly takes the role of a beating heart in a “new love” song that won’t say the word. Katherine and Sam’s voices fit so well together, it’s almost as if she’s telling the story and he’s following her lead, just slightly behind. It’s wonderful. Katherine’s voice is ethereal and emotive while Sam’s is rich and strong like so many new romantics were. While the couple chooses a “wait and see” attitude against the majority, they’re allowing time to grow and seem quite happy in doing it their own way.
Sam takes the vocal lead on ‘The Sway” setting another clear path, it’s somewhat Bryan Ferry with splashes of New Order or Interpol. The airy space given to the vocals here is amplified by the sustaining guitar lines, each reaching out only slightly, just enough to accent until the build at the end. Very impressive. The keys do a lot of the heavy-lifting overall, providing beats, textures and some bass, definitely adequate considering the vocal leanings and melodic richness of the songs.
“Scars” may be my favorite track, it’s focused and well mixed, the call/response vocals are almost like Kate Bush with The Edge riffing behind. The keys fill and lift the harmonies in a way that makes the listener question the number of musicians contributing to the whole. Katherine’s voice soars on the orchestral string sounds while Sam counterpoints the melody on guitar and harmonizes through the swelling close.
The penultimate song, ‘Tracks,” embodies the statements — “Dream pop tends to focus on textures and moods rather than propulsive rock riffs” in the view of Simon Reynolds, dream pop, “celebrates rapturous and transcendent experiences, often using druggy and mystical imagery.” This is anthemic to Milking Diamonds throughout this EP and even their previous release. Especially here with the upbeat drum pattern and Sam’s guitar seamlessly switching moods for Katherine’s poppy reading.
With the flair of The Raveonettes and White Stripes, “Human Cannonball” is relentless in its beat and topic, railing against the norm while establishing their realities. It yearns and strives for more, from here it seems there could be a long way to go for them. You can feel the heart of the songs, while each has a level of familiarity, they also posses individuality while leaving room for listeners to relate.
The many strengths of Milking Diamonds are evident, their style is ear-candy to any lover of 80s and 90s post-punk romantics and more. While the drum programming provided in the keyboards works, it would be remarkable to hear these tracks pushed by a live rhythm section. You can see, hear and buy music from Milking Diamonds on their Facebook page, twitter, cdbaby and their aforementioned bandcamp page. Give ‘em a spin and check ‘em live, my plan is to do the same.
Key Tracks: Obvious, Scars