12 February 2011

Golden Gardens: "Somnambulist" EP

I remember a time when if you wanted great music, you had to turn to EPs and mini-albums. Whether it was My Bloody Valentine’s “Ecstasy” (1987), Cranes’ “Self-Non-Self” (1989), Ride’s “Ride” (1990), Curve’s “Cherry” (1991), it was these nascent, underground bands that were defining the upcoming music scenes and carrying on musical traditions (from post-punk to noise pop) that were completely abandoned or ignored by the mainstream. Golden Gardens is one of these bands, who recently released their “Somnambulist” EP (6 December 2010) and are (re)educating an audience on what trippy, shoegazey, dream pop is all about.

I admit near complete ignorance about the band’s biography, but here is the little I do know: the band is a duo, which hails from Seattle, Washington USA and apparently named after Golden Gardens Park. Though the band uses electronic equipment to generate their music, I would hardly call them an electronic band. For that matter, I would not call them a dream pop or shoegaze band in the classic sense of either of those genres. And of course, all this dream pop/shoegaze revival is getting some of us really happy about what a 90s revival could sound like, but Golden Gardens is not rehashing that classic form. It is fair to say they are expanding it, reconfiguring it, and producing something fresh and urgent. But if you need a comparison, think of Cranes, in the sense of having so much focus on a female voice lifting up from the music, and Curve, in the sense of generating powerful undertow in the dichotomy between how the vocal and musical arrangements interplay with one another.

“Somnambulist” is the perfect name for this collection. The music is lost somewhere between a dream world (that trippy, dream pop) and those barely conscious, but epiphanic twilight moments when we are stirring. The opening track is “Paresseux” [French for lazy], and this track definitely has a laziness, slow-moving quality to it, that allows you fall back into contemplation – a perfect way to ease into this musical journey. “Cloudless” has a bit of trip-hop to it, but retains its ethereal dream pop. “Elizabeta” has a beautifully thick wall of sound in the background and that feeling that the song is either going to explode or implode into something different, but never does – and it is in that denial of major shift that the song gains this amazing visceral undertow. “The Uses of Enchantment” is the closest song to post-punk, working on subtle shifts and repetitions. “The High Priestess” is the standout song of the collection, and of course an amazing study on epic music! It is a bit more experimental in arrangements than the other songs; it really captures the qualities of being somnambulistic. It moves in a daze, is shadowy and ethereal, as you are subtly swept into its soundscape for a near seven minutes. “Heartbeats” closes the collection, and like the opening, the music wallows gracefully though lethargy, as the focal vocals (at one point in a cappella) completely arrests your attention. The music is only meant to heighten the urgency of the vocal arrangements; this is the most haunting song of the year thus far!

For the sake of a bit of disclosure, I want to say that Golden Gardens came into my radar on Twitter, when I got a heads up from the band in the form of a few words. Not the first time I got a heads up from a band, which more often than not ends in a disastrous listening experience, I checked out their music on Bandcamp and could not stop listening to the “Somnambulist” EP. Trust me, if you had an affinity and love for dreamy shoegaze, or your curiosity is even slightly roused, check out Golden Gardens links below and support the band.

Track Listing:
1. Paresseux
2. Cloudless
3. Elizabeta
4. The Uses of Enchantment
5. The High Priestess
6. Heartbeats

Keep up with Golden Gardens at their homepage, Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp, where you can preview and purchase the "Somnambulist" EP.

Here is the video for “Paresseux” from the gossamerruby YouTube Channel.

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