Philly quartet Empath’s bristly lo-fi production, synth-heavy instrumentation, and new age undertones all congealed into an ecstatic reading of punk. The band emerged from their city’s thriving D.I.Y. scene, touring constantly and capturing their joyous and blurry sound on early 7″s and their 2019 debut full-length, Active Listening: Night on Earth. Three years later, they followed up with the Visitor LP.
Drummer Garrett Koloski and keyboardist Emily Shanahan moved from Syracuse, New York, to Philadelphia in 2015, quickly moving into a communal punk house with singer/vocalist Catherine Elicson. All three had been in various touring configurations before, and they were playing music together in the basement within weeks of becoming friends. Second synth player Randall Coon completed the band soon after, and they began writing and recording songs as Empath. Early on, the group’s chaotic punk was informed by their love of floating, spiritual free jazz like Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. That jubilant spirit clashed happily with high-speed tempos and fuzzy home recordings on early demo recordings. In late 2016, the band self-recorded and self-released two short demos titled Crystal Reality, Vol. 1 and 2. They began touring ceaselessly, releasing the Liberating Guilt and Fear EP in 2018, as well as two 7″ singles both named Environments, inspired by a series of atmospheric new age albums from the ’70s.
Buzz around the band grew and they recorded the material for a debut full-length with help from Perfect Pussy’s noise guru Shaun Sutkus and Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier. That album, Active Listening: Night on Earth, was released on the staunchly D.I.Y. Get Better Records in spring of 2019. Following more touring, the group soon signed on with Fat Possum Records, which re-released both their debut and Liberating Guilt and Fear in October 2019. After the stand-alone 2020 single “III+,” Empath began teasing their follow-up record with a spate of singles that took a slightly dreamier tone. The album, Visitor, appeared in February 2022.