Formed in April 2019, Smooth Retsina Glow is a musical trio that hails from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Colin Wolf is the guitarist and vocalist, with Marie Sarah Stoll on alternate lead vocals, plus Sam Radogna (and later, Brian Derkas) on drums. Their first album New Frontiers featured a different lineup and was released in November 2019, resulting in several awards, shows and a tour. Out of The Ether was released in April 2021, with the song “Memories Made” hitting Number One on Australia’s Bank City radio station.
The band describe this as “a transitional album away from the roots rock, folk and blues shadings of their first record. Elements of indie rock, pop, jazz, R&B, metal, prog, blues and ethnic music can be detected in Colin Wolf’s writing style.” The notes indicate that Wolf himself played all instruments on the album except for drums. Recording took place at Syvret Music and Aqua Underground Studios.
“Where Figments Lie” starts right up my alley with chiming Olde English style guitars creating a glorious, encompassing and upbeat background for Stoll’s lovely lead vocals. Each instrument seems to cycle perfectly alongside the others, culminating in an understated but perfect lead guitar solo. “Raise A Voice” changes things up with more of a grungy Badfinger vibe with Colin Wolf on swaggeringly cool Lou Reed-like vocals. His lead solo has a real ’60s Hendrix psychedelic vibe, and I believe at least some of it was tracked backwards. “Vigilance” is a fun boogie where the chord permutations go into major and minor places you won’t expect. This album’s pattern seems to be that each song has a different lead guitar break style, and here it’s more rockabilly.
“Memories Made” is the aforementioned Australian radio hit, which is not surprising given its indie pop sheen. However, Wolf is rarely content to stick in any one genre for long, and his retro influences quickly reappear via wah wah guitars, weird 7th chords and funky breaks. That such a complex mashup sparked so many listens speaks well for the Aussies! Stoll again provides fun, almost aloof vocals. “Carbon Wind” whips us around 180 degrees with a speed punk workout, but again with a mismatched lead solo from the Steve Vai school.
“So Easily Charmed” is another smoky showcase for Stoll’s seductive nightclub vocals, with a jazzy arrangement worthy of Steely Dan. You’d think Wolf would run out of lead solo ideas by now, but instead he pulls out a Talk Box! “Nowhere To Hide” goes total roots-blues including a somewhat tinny recording quality at the start. “A Tale Foretold” again features Stoll’s vocals but I can’t even begin to place the genre. Space Funk? The lead solo here almost sounds like aliens played it. “Take What You Heed” crashes in with Who-like power chords, then lumbers forward with Metallica-heavy riffs of the St. Anger school. The album ends with the title track “Out of the Ether” and it certainly begins like music from the ether. I was glad to hear Stoll back on vocals, as this tune has a more current dream pop sound not unlike “Memories Made.” I daresay the final solo here owes a bit to George Harrison’s slide work.
When a band like this presents so much stylistic variety, it’s certainly fun and bracing, but after a while I start pining for a bit of stability. Ironically, if a band’s music is totally consistent, I sometimes wish they would experiment more and change things up! I guess what I’m saying is for Smooth Retsina Glow being a bit less “unpredictable” in future releases may not be a bad thing. But even with all the stylistic overachieving, I’m really enjoying all that I’ve heard.
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