Last year, local indie rock quintet Cuckoo Chaos rebranded itself as Deadphones, briefly, with a new album and a new artistic direction. That lasted just a short time; the band more or less ended after the release of their debut album and only a handful of shows, which seemed a little unfortunate, if only because the album itself was really good. But two of the members of that band—Garrett Prange and Dave Mead—transferred their talents to post-punk trio Ditches, helmed by guitarist and vocalist Tim Donnelly. And as artistic transitions go, it's a surprising but ultimately impressive one.
Ditches is much noisier, more visceral and abrasive than Deadphones or Cuckoo Chaos were, and their debut EP Scraped Off is much more rooted in punk intensity. It does start off a little slow, with the atmospheric "Break-In" gradually introducing an eerie and ambient sound that soon explodes into Donnelly's heavily reverbed vocals, which arrive with a manic shriek. But while "Break-In" (perhaps not coincidentally also the name of a Fugazi song) is the most gradually paced of Ditches' tunes, it's also the one with the most diverse sonic approach, juxtaposing moments of tension and space against eruptions of distortion and howls.
By comparison, the remaining three tracks move at a steadier clip, and seem to get faster and louder as the EP progresses. "Quick High" begins with a tempered guitar jangle before introducing a squall of feedback that comes to nearly overtake the entire thing. Yet "Take Care of My Man" has both a super-catchy melody and a mid-tempo groove that makes it sound more like The Replacements than Fugazi, and it's a fun change of pace.
Still, it's closing track "Sucker" that seems to encapsulate Ditches' aesthetic best in a compact package. There's a consistent shriek of noise that squeals in the background, spraying like a bright shower of sparks. And Donnelly goes back and forth between yelling, singing and delivering an idiosyncratic sing-speak that's somewhere between Life Without Buildings' Sue Tompkins and Public Image Limited's John Lydon. Perhaps it's because of the members' years of experience in playing music that this EP feels fully formed and cohesive, but whatever the reason, it's a strong sign of things to come.