Ex Pilots: Ex Pilots [Album Review]

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Ex Pilots
Ex Pilots
Smoking Room [2023]

The Fire Note headphone approved

Recorded at home between 2009 – 2019, Pittsburgh’s Ethan Oliva, aka Ex Pilots, gives recording credit of his self-titled debut to Logic Pro, a Korg CR-4, a 424 mk II and an MF-P01. That jargon may not mean much to many but when you are easily hooked on anything 4-track cassette recorded that equipment list grabs my instant attention. This 14 track release will quickly surprise you because from the onset you might expect this album to be a short lo-fi attack but that is where Ex Pilots separates itself out as several tracks move past the 5-minute mark giving it a rich and unexpected depth during its overall 40 minute runtime. This lo-fi indie rock meets shoegaze has no real boundaries and that freedom keeps the listener tuned in.

Oliva has been on the Pittsburgh scene for some time playing guitar and singing vocals for 10 years with the band Barlow. He also plays experimental rock with Sober Clones, drums for the grungy Gaadge and leads the hardcore trio Living World. His resume shows a multitude of musical talent so it’s no surprise that on Ex Pilots he handles just about every aspect of what you hear. This solo DIY approach leads to the best moments as song’s moods quickly change from the really distorted opening Hüsker Dü type track, “Dianetics,” that then leads into the more hush second song, “Exactly Like You” that just pleasantly floats a reoccurring catchy guitar run that is begging for more vocals until you get the whispery echoes near its conclusion. “Too Far” has a GBV template with its catchy hum and short runtime while in other areas you get a driving shoegaze on the over five minute “Warp.”

The overall mix for Ex Pilots keeps the vocals right above the music which always pulls the listener in a bit closer. Especially for the bigger rock out moments during “Sailing Stone” and “Pimo” the distortion feels perfect. The balance of tempo really works as Ex Pilots also succeed when a track is slower, such as the piano led “Red Tape” that also features Mary Komondy on backing vocals. This little tweak to the formula works out as an album highlight and just keeps the replay value high as Ex Pilots has already released one of our favorite records this year!

“Too Far” / “Red Tape” / “Live Forever”

Hüsker Dü / Psychic Flowers / Guided By Voices

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Christopher Anthony
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