Love is everyday magic. That’s the impression you get listening to Water, the new album by Chicago trio Dehd. Love rises up into the atmosphere like steam off a summer sidewalk and makes you wild. Love breaks your heart and you consider yourself lucky for it. Like water itself, it surrounds us, it supports us; it’s what we’re made of. It takes the shape of its container.
That’s something Jason Balla, Emily Kempf, and Eric McGrady discovered quickly after forming Dehd in 2014. Balla and Kempf are both veterans of Chicago’s increasingly fruitful DIY scene (Balla with Ne-Hi and Earring, Kempf with Vail and formerly with Lala Lala). When they joined forces with first-time drummer Eric McGrady, they discovered they shared a strange and inexplicable chemistry. The music they make — hazy and reverb-drenched, a scuzzy and hyped-up take on surf rock that could only come from the Third Coast — came so intuitively, it made all three feel like they were stewards of something bigger than themselves, even while that very thing is unmistakably drawn from their own personalities.
Water finds Dehd’s three members united as they push themselves beyond their natural limits and end up in places they wouldn’t have imagined. Balla’s production incorporates flubbed notes and dropped beats, and it emphasizes he and Kempf’s occasionally strained voices. It’s all animated by the red-lining feel-good spirit of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded and the breezy melodicism of C86-era indie rock, with a dash of the Cramps’ spooky-hop bop courtesy of McGrady’s locomotive drumming.
Which makes Water feel like a different kind of record: It’s at once a mature and grounded look at adult relationships, and a raucous celebration of friendship, and a cracked piece of purely musical bliss. It’s a clear-eyed look at the wild nature of everyday life that’s been spun up in sugary sweet melodies and scratched-crystal sounds.
(Photo Credit: Alexa Viscius)
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