Wednesday, May 25, 2011

if the bottle weren't empty

half asleep. half awake
- Wallscenery Demos

It's been raining here for days. Lo-fi weather.

A prolonged grey soak is actually the perfect condition under which to really immerse your senses in Wallscenery Demos' newly released third album half asleep. half awake. Conjuring up images of the Jesus and Mary Chain on an unusually reflective day, the album wallows in introverted shoe-gaze splendor.

The opening track, gotta watch out for a year, is a beautifully subdued number, vocals just verging on decipherable, which builds into a satisfyingly fuzzy anthem. I could easily find myself hitting repeat on this one, and staying lost in the fuzz. Happily the fuzzy lo-fi goodness continues on the title track which follows and indeed comprises the underlying sensibility of the entire album, although a couple of the tracks, most notably 14 and falling and wrote, do look up from their shoes a bit and substitute vocal clarity and strumminess for the mumbles and fuzz that predominates. I found these two tracks to be the least compelling.

Halfway through the album, the strangely mesmerizing money lebowski offers up a wild card. A sampling of sound bites from The Big Lebowski, interspersed with what sounds like a 1960's cautionary lecture on alcohol, are set against some lazy beats and pretty picking. This is no mere interstitial oddity, rather it operates to change the direction of the album.

The bottom half of half asleep. half awake is distinctly more experimental. The instrumentation becomes less lo-fi and more intricate, the satisfyingly vocal fuzz is not only maintained, but become further obscured. The drum beat, although never shaking its laziness, becomes more insistent on rest my mind.

By the time half asleep theme song/ plays, I find myself surrendering all attempts to discern lyrics, instead losing myself in the flow of the sound. The Jesus and Mary Chain are stepping aside, giving up the stage instead to Portishead in a pensive mood. On the album's final track, the club is open, vocals are abandoned entirely in favour of a nicely reverberating jangle of beats and swells of sound.

half asleep. half awake is definitely not a road trip album. It is, however, a satisfyingly introspective recording that draws you in and encourages you to wallow in the mood.


L said...

As cloudy as it's been here (which is so unusual for us), I may need some Half Asleep/Half Awake for myself. I already feel that way, so it seems like a good fit.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I'm a big advocate of matching your music to your weather, Lesley. It makes the weather feel like it was a deliberate choice.

Allison said...

It's been the coldest and rainiest spring on record here, so this will fit perfectly with the mood!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

With this wet and grey weather being so widespread this spring, the timing of the release of this album could not be better, Al. But I still hope the sun comes out soon.

Westcoast Walker said...

"the album wallows in introverted shoe-gaze splendor" - You are a gifted writer my friend, I love this line!

I like the notion of matching music to weather - I agree with Allison that this sounds like an appropriate recent Vancouver soundtrack.

Of course I am always thrilled at the prospect of being turned on to more inspiring music - might as well give those dark clouds something to hum along to.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I love the idea of the clouds humming along, Matthew! It fulfills my mental image of the integrated musical universe that I want to live in. Thanks for the lovely image!