christian gunning’s production as shelf nunny has always been methodically downtempo, a gorgeously chilly tapestry with pelagic undertones fitting for a project in close proximity to the puget sound. next friday, gunning will release little time we have, his sophomore extended play, that ventures to an outpost on the hazy border between electronic and pop music.
for a primer, enter “washed out.” the extended play’s third track (and, consequently, its centerpiece) is one of two offerings to feature toronto-based audioopera on vocals, a partnership spurned by a previous, positive collaborative experience. his airy, ethereal falsetto nestles somewhere in the middle of the texture, right alongside a sparse rhythm section and flittering snippets of melody, an initially hesitant union that blossoms into something spectacular during the song’s second half.
little time we have is out september 29th via hush hush records. take a listen to “washed out,” which premieres here on the dimestore, below.
scott reitherman’s self-titled debut as pillar point in early 2014 read as a successful reinvention. a dark undercurrent coursed through equally-murky pop constructs, molding an ominous presence that all but dared listeners to either furiously dance or studiously absorb its lyrical content; multi-tasking was not a feasible option. but it turns out that pillar point was just the tip of that particular iceberg. on his sophomore follow-up, marble mouth, reitherman plunges into the depths of his aesthetic and emerges with a refocused and incredibly urgent end result.
disconnected relationships are still very much a central tenet of reitherman’s lyrics, but he’s more direct about these issues on marble mouth; the very title of “part time love” is a concession of the limitations geographical distance can put on even a committed romance, while “dove” fleshes out the subsequent strain and exhaustion from both parties. these melancholic expressions soak into most of the album, though reitherman allows himself moments of catharsis on the sprightly penultimate cut “underground,” re-routing emotional weight to third-person narratives before letting loose with the resounding hook of “give me what you need / i’ve been working overtime.”
if pillar point was a pop album that occasionally ceded to reitherman’s dance-floor urges, marble mouth feels like the opposite. pop constructs exist insofar as most songs have a discernible verse-chorus structure, but they’re routinely padded with firm indulgences into experimental textures and static harmonies. tracks like “black fly on a white wall” and “lafayette” funnel observations on new surroundings through robotic vocal deliveries and punishing ostinato bass grooves before wandering off into uncharted musical territories, while “gloomsday” is a dreary homecoming built around radio samples and a frenetic amalgamation of agitated synth motifs and steadfast percussion.
outside production from of montreal’s kevin barnes and percussion contributions from members of washed out and kishi bashi help to keep marble mouth from becoming an insular extension of its predecessor, but reitherman of course deserves the lion’s share of credit. if there’s any cop-out hedonism on this album, it’s buried miles-deep beneath extensive self-examination and an adventurous, eclectic sonic palette.
even the most accessible songs benefit from this meticulous writing process; “dove” rests its laurels on the polyrhythm interplay between strings and a four-on-the-floor beat while “playtime,” the album’s filthiest cut, uses its titular sample to foreshadow both the track’s eerie descending vocal melodies and its irresistible syncopations.
still, the most impressionable aspect of marble mouth is arguably its biggest outlier. after an exhausting half-hour dance odyssey, reitherman slows the tempo and eliminates much of the accumulated textures for “dance like you wanna die,” a poignant finale for lilting hearts that wonders “is there a love song that cares / whose mind she’s on?” this sudden juxtaposition is jarring, but it’s an integral piece in supporting the argument that scott reitherman has crafted the most earnest, and honest, album of his career.
in this segment, i present my annual list of albums that were pretty great, but that i couldn’t be bothered to rank. 2013 was an enormously great year for music, and i’m still reveling in that fact during the early hours of 2014. the following handful of albums are presented in alphabetical order to save any clamoring; check them out.
keep shelly in athens – at home: the most striking aspect of at home was how dark and desolate the album was able to be. front-loaded with infectious grooves like “oostende” and “flyway,” at home slows down with tracks like “madmen love” and “sails,” creating a truly polarizing album. keep shelly in athens brought their a-game in 2013, and will continue to do so over the next year.
london grammar – if you wait: a super-arresting body of work from a trio of brits, if you wait is a sleeper album that has london grammar poised to break out in 2014. hannah reid’s voice is nothing short of lush, and the instrumentation behind tracks like “stay awake” and “strong” recalls the winning downtempo formulas of the xx. seriously, a band to watch.
radiator hospital – something wild: sam cook-parrott writes music befitting for fans of waxahatchee and swearin’, understandable since he hangs out with the crutchfield sisters on the regular. radiator hospital’s newest album is chock-full of lo-fi garage pop songs that are often insanely catchy and always incredibly well-written; “our song” will make you dance the first time you hear it and listen intently on subsequent spins.
washed out – paracosm: ernest greene’s second album as washed out is a lush exploration of organic sound. after largely using electronic elements to create his 2011 debut within & without, greene stuck with a bevy of vintage keyboards and synthesizers on paracosm, resulting in a much more psychedelic texture.
chillwave is like the betamax of indie genres: it was cool for a couple of years, and my uncle sometimes jokes that he wishes it was still around. just three summers after its apex, chillwave’s largest proponents have started to distance themselves from that identity. toro y moi underscored with this year’s anything in return that he no longer would stand to be pigeonholed, so it makes sense that his south carolina counterpart would follow suit.
it should be noted that, for all the transparency chillwave is/was purported to have, its two godfathers each retained their own individual tendencies, which have now been pushed to the extreme. chaz bundick steered toro y moi slowly towards the r&b side of chillwave, crossing over elements of pop and working on collaborations with tyler, the creator in the process. ernest greene’s trajectory was a bit different and initially mysterious; the man behind washed out remained largely silent between 2011’s within and without and the announcement of his follow-up effort, paracosm.
with the lead-off single “it all feels right,” greene effectively patented something he referred to as “daytime psychedelia.” the trademark washed out vocal manipulations are still present and the overall ambience is similar, but what reigns supreme are the new textures that supplement that ambience. synth sounds are more jarring and angular in comparison to greene’s previous output, which aids in keeping his songs from becoming derivative.
this psychedelic nature reigns supreme throughout paracosm, turning songs like “all i know” and the album’s title track into trippy experiences that slightly recall youth lagoon’s sophomore album from earlier this year. but with all the conscious rejection of chillwave and its surrounding terminology, greene is at his best on songs like “don’t give up” and “all over now,” songs that recall salient traits of the genre.
the end result of paracosm paints a picture of an artist who’s trying to move in a new direction, but is taking his time getting there. this overzealousness in musical reinvention may yield a product slightly inconsistent from what was hinted at, but it’s still a pretty gorgeous spectacle nonetheless.