Some Get Started, the new EP from The Raven and the Writing Desk, begins with an atonal drone and a rigid, almost quantized beat. After a few bars, the drone moves into the upper registers and takes on the thick reverb we associate with our ubiquitous, aging friend: dream pop. As the song loosens up and spreads out, it inhabits this genre fully, atmospherically, but it retains the sense of being grounded in something dark. The refrain bends into a dissonant chord midway through, suggesting it adheres to convention as a kind of mannerism, a way to carefully express some feeling difficult to control.
This dark thread runs throughout Some Get Started, and it is the most interesting element in what might otherwise be a competently executed genre exercise. On "When We Go," backwards bass and keyboard arpeggios make a ballad feel tense and desperate. Much of this atmosphere owes to the evocative strength of Julia LiBassi's voice, which moves from grumble to yelp with the same graceful control as the early Tori Amos. This is rainy-day dream pop. It is not abrasive, but neither is it cheerful. The Raven and the Writing Desk have taken a familiar sound and bent it to their own distinct sensibility.
The Raven and the Writing Desk play the ZACC Below Sun., March 20, at 7 PM, along with New Old Future and Gerygone & Twig. $5.