Hard to imagine, but three-fourths of the atmospheric rock tracks on Follow Me, The Secret Theatre's debut EP, are survivors from frontman James Bone's short-lived venture into solo folk territory: After his last band split, Bone dubbed himself The Loveless Theatre Presents and started gigging on an acoustic guitar. That ended when, as he told The Devil's Advocate, he realized it "was really boring."
Regardless of that project's relative merits, the picturesque lyricism of Follow Me lends itself more to these teeming soundscapes. Mixing fingerpicked guitar, organ and synth swells, and skittering hi-hats bolstered by drum machine beats, Follow Me is reminiscent at times of the last half-decade of Ben Gibbard's work, especially when Bone turns ruminations on death into something vaguely romantic. Imagery of light, eyes and their interrelatedness runs throughout the disc.
The delicate vocal melodies of quieter, well-orchestrated verses slowly fold into big crescendos that can be hit or miss. Guitarist Zack Sterman sometimes has trouble finding a guitar tone that's not generic for those loud moments, often making the climax stiff and unsatisfying (the excellent gang vocal coda on "Advent" notwithstanding). Wisely, the band's strongest tracks, "Bury Me, Winter Pt. 1" and "Bury Me, Winter Pt. 2," bookend the EP. The pair effortlessly transitions from build to release and back again. At a little under 16 minutes, this is just a tease for The Secret Theatre's full-length, which may be long in the making, as two members now live out of state. But with a little fine-tuning and more writing that's on par with this release, it could be worth the wait.