by Cortney Harding & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & t's somewhat comforting to know that legendarily contrarian lo-fi producer Steve Albini could be seduced by something as simple as some sultry flirtation with a pretty girl. That's exactly what got Los Angeles band Slow Signal Fade a foot in the door of Albini's legendary Chicago studio, despite having no major label backing and only two self-released EPs to their name. The result of the Albini collaboration, an album entitled Steady, clearly showcases the tape-enthusiast's production wizardry and the band's dreamy, ethereal shoe-gazing compositions.
The four members of Slow Signal Fade all came to their current home base of Los Angeles via unique paths. Lead singer and Albini-seducer Marguerite Olivelle was born in Sri Lanka, raised in Canada, and moved to Los Angeles with her family. Bassist Chris Walters escaped upstate New York for the sunnier environs of the University of Southern California; his classmate, drummer Aaron Vishria, hails from Memphis. The band came together in the way many Los Angeles bands do: by answering an ad in the legendary Recycler. They quickly released two EPs (2003's Kindling E.P. and 2004's Through the Opaque Air) and established themselves as members of the local indie scene, opening for acts like Helio Sequence, 50-Foot Wave, the Start, Nedelle, Giant Drag, and current "it" band Be Your Own Pet. Their vast and eclectic blend of influences are what set them apart from the crop of Southern California bands looking to make it big; their new record contains nods to everyone from Slowdive to the Doors to Sarah Vaughan. Their greatest influence, however, seems to be the city they all inhabit; it has been a good long time since any band made a record with such a Los Angeles feel to it.
In his recently released chronicle of the mid-1960s to mid-'70s Los Angeles music scene, author Barney Hoskyns describes how several bands with different sounds all managed to embody the musical spirit of L.A. Joni Mitchell and the Eagles sounded virtually nothing like each other, and yet both managed to be instantly recognizable as part of the sun- and drug-drenched Southern California scene. Slow Signal Fade manages to achieve that same feat; even though most of the songs are dark and moody, the image of the dirty, gritty, bright city is readily apparent.
The curse that befalls many bands that try to get too "quirky" seems to have skipped Slow Signal Fade. Normally, when a band presents a laundry list of "diverse" influences, it generally means they sound like Coldplay and want to claim they sound like [insert obscure band name here] to get some more cred. Slow Signal Fade's intensely collaborative, non-hierarchical songwriting process seems to play a factor in this; while Olivelle takes responsibility for most of the lyrics, she and her band mates compose their songs collectively. The result is one of those rare records where every song sounds a little different from its predecessor, but none of the songs sound like obvious outliers.
With such a strong new record and the prospect of a U.S. tour looming, the members of Slow Signal Fade have some big issues to consider. Although their official biography brags that none of the members are part of "the industry" and are about as well connected as the kid in the mailroom, it's not hard to imagine major-label interest in this band. Then there are those now-omnipresent music bloggers, just waiting to get their laptops on the next big thing. Of all the bands poised to make it big, Slow Signal Fade seem the most ready to handle success; their ability to convince Steve Albini to work with relative unknowns is a testament to their tenacity and daring. And if things start to fall apart, there is always their secret weapon: Olivelle's flirtatiousness. If she can charm curmudgeonly production wizards, making the public eat out of her palm should be easy.
Slow Signal Fade at Empyrean with TeeVee on Friday, June 2, at 7 pm. Tickets: TBA. Call 456-3676.