It’s been nearly two and a half years since Pallow released their tense, distended sophomore EP, Confined, and if you’ve lost track of the group in the interim, it’s perfectly understandable. For the most part, the Atlanta slowcore outfit have kept themselves off the radar, quietly sorting out their lineup and working diligently on their first full length, Blueprints for an Empty Vessel. The eight-song effort arrives tomorrow via Glowing Windows Recordings, the label founded by Planning for Burial mastermind Thom Wasluck, whose colossal dirges have long served as inspiration for Pallow’s own austere, monolithic songwriting. As return stories go, it’s a rock-solid setup, and if “Swell” is any indication, the band’s retreat to the sidelines was time well spent.

That’s not to say, however, that the new LP will contain any major evolutions. At their core, the group remains driven by their love of ’90s slowcore and shoegaze giants like Codeine, Red House Painters, and Slowdive. Still, according to a statement released by the band, these latest sessions have felt far more natural and adventurous than any they’ve experienced in the past. “We’ve been exploring more time signatures, textures, space, production techniques, and experiments than previously,” the group writes, “which created a much denser, more layered, and dynamic set of songs than anything we’ve done before.”

Indeed, compare “Swell” to anything off Confined, or its predecessor I’ll Build a Well, and you’ll hear strong traces of those records’ spacious, crystalline aesthetic delivered with a more ambitious and expansive palette. Guitars bloom and burst, drums tumble and fade, and the vocals, bleak as they may be, conjure an eerie, dream-like atmosphere that filters through the track’s turgid rhythms like pallid moonlight. Overall, it’s a gorgeous, inviting song, but you can’t help but feel the darkness building at the edges.

“It’s one of the most upbeat, energetic, and poppy songs we’ve ever written,” says bassist Jason Combs. “In direct contrast with the music, however, the lyrics themselves make one of the album’s lowest moments, as the song is about being afraid of committing suicide and hoping an unpredictable accident would happen instead. Yikes. The rest of the album hovers around this theme of struggling through stress, anxiety, and mental illness. Each song is a vignette of a specific moment of hardship that ends up forming a larger representation of our lives over the past few years.”

Although the new LP marks an official return for Pallow, their future remains uncertain. The group is currently in the process of finding a permanent drummer, so any live shows in support of the record have been put on halt. Still, with the record finally complete, the band feels increasingly positive about their chances of returning to the stage. “We’ve been off the radar for almost a year now,” explains guitarist Connor McFall. “The album, along with school and working, has consumed most of our time, which has made it difficult to find time to do anything else. Now that the album is finally finished, we can try to find more time to play shows again, so keep an eye out!”

Blueprints for an Empty Vessel is out tomorrow. Pre-orders are available here.

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