Pittsburgh duo Ennui excel at creating the chillest of vibes. They know when to turn up the volume and rock for a bit, but they do best when crafting soft, steady and penetrating grooves. They refer to themselves as synthwave rock, and I think the classification fits rather well. There’s the traditional at work, like keys, guitar, drums et cetera, but what makes many of the songs on the wonderful Formation of Tides work are the well-placed accompaniments — a bass line here, an elongated synth hum or buzz or melody line — that are layered to create a lush tapestry of sounds. There’s not a lot that seems misplaced here; everything fits together nicely, and each high-hat drum beat or raked guitar chord adds to the feel of the music.
The word ennui refers to a feeling of weariness, dissatisfaction or boredom. While I didn’t feel any of those things as I listened to Formation of Tides, I can see why the band chose the moniker. The songs seem to kind of float above the listener, allowing you to just latch on to whatever small piece tickles your ear. Making music like that is a delicate balance — you have to execute well but still leave room for the listener to grab hold. It’s being compelling without being overpowering. And for most, if not all, of Formation of Tides, Ennui does all those things quite well.
We’ll give a few songs to sample here, but it’s a good idea to absorb this record as a whole at some point, for all
the moving parts and beautiful moments to be appreciated in sequence. You can download Formation of Tides free on the band’s Bandcamp page, which is awfully generous.