artist: Spirit of the Stairs
genre: instrumental rock
release date: April 17, 2018
star rating: five out of five
review by Levi Yager
This spring, local Wichita band Spirit of the Stairs released their latest EP, titled Sagas. Definitely one of the band’s strongest albums, Sagas is thick with emotion and also has curious references to Star Wars in its titles.
The first song, “Stallions,” opens Sagas with airy electric guitar strumming and builds into the percussion debut. A highlight of “Stallions” are some rhythmic, almost galloping sections where the bass guitar playing shines through. Additionally, there’s spacious pacing on this track that allows moments to breathe before picking up the tempo again at certain points. The lead guitar and rhythm guitar complement each other well on “Stallions,” too. This song will get your head bobbing and foot tapping for sure.
Then, we have “Carrie Fisher.” This one kicks off with just drums, before the rest of the band joins in. “Carrie Fisher” feels somber and reflective; it’s an interesting change of scenery from the first song. This track has some great harmony among the lead and rhythm guitar, especially near the midway point. There’s also a heavier, breakdown-y section two-thirds of the way through that leads to an epic conclusion. “Carrie Fisher” beckons thoughts of what the actress’ life must’ve been like on and off the silver screen.
“Trenchrun” is the third song. It has distinct high-energy qualities, like rapid electric guitar picking, that reinforce the idea of its title – which is very likely a reference to Luke Skywalker’s flight through the trenches of the Death Star in A New Hope. The introduction of new melodies throughout “Trenchrun” provides the listener an engaging experience. It ends with Spirit of the Stairs jamming out in a somewhat surprising, heavier finale.
The last song is “Peter Mayhew,” which incorporates many of the elements that made the preceding tracks great. It’s decently fast from the get-go, and a third of the way through, there are solid, harmonizing riffs on the electric guitars that are a real treat for the ears. There’s a melancholy, slower part at halfway, where the energetic tension dissipates before the dawn of subtler musical introspection. “Peter Mayhew” then inevitably builds up to a confident, resoundingly triumphant denouement – evocative of experiencing fulfillment after working through various challenges. This final track is powerful enough to make you feel like you’ve just witnessed someone’s life story (maybe Mayhew’s?) truncated into 11 minutes.
In the end, “Sagas” is a fantastic listen that is great for visualizing the grand stories – or sagas – in your own life, others’ lives and the lives of fictional characters (maybe even from Star Wars). It happens to be one of Spirit of the Stairs’ less lighthearted outings overall, and the approach works well here. The band brings emotions of nostalgia, intrepidness, expectancy, loss and sadness into play on “Sagas.” They’ve created an impressive, memorable album that is as enjoyable as it is thought-provoking. It’s one worth spinning many times over.