16 Nov 2022 - Dan D.
Shoegaze, Indie, Ambient, The Flenser | The Flenser | Release date: 04 Nov 2022 | Favorite song: Three Faces (Cyanoacrylate)
I’ve been a long-time follower of San Francisco based record label The Flenser. They release some of the most interesting and emotive music around. Be it experimental black metal in the form of Bosse-de-Nage and The Botanist, Chat Pile’s caustic noise rock or the sensational synth stylings of Black Wing - they never disappoint. Anyone familiar with the label will also know that they have a very strong roster of artists with shoegaze and slowcore sensibilities. Planning for Burial and Midwife have released some of my most listened to albums over the past few years and for good reason. They freaking rule! Another artist of a similar ilk who has massively impressed me is Kyle Bates, aka drowse. Cold Air and Light Mirror both left a lasting impression, so I was chomping at the bit to hear the new album, Wane into You.
Wane into It is drowse’s third album for The Flenser and was recorded and self-produced between 2019 and 2022. This period appears to be one of upheaval. The three years in question were “marked by moving across state lines, long-distance relationships, and deaths in the family”. Kyle has not let this admittedly arduous and most probably painful journey go to waste though and you can feel his emotions permeate every sinew of his new album.
“Untrue in Headphones” starts the album with Shoegazey guitars strummed underneath Bates’ beautifully breathy vocals. This is accompanied by organs and a subtle glitchy processed beat which really aids in driving the track forward. Midwife’s Madeline Johnson contributes vocals and they add another dimension to an already gorgeous song which excellently end with the sound of a vibraphone.
“Mystery Pt. 2” is a sombre acoustic number, and anyone who is already aware of drowse will know how adept Bates is at this type of track. It features a stunning bridge on 12 string guitar too along with measured synthesizers, accordion (unless my ears deceive me?) and percussion.
(Ashes Over the Pacific Northwest)” is a more urgent number with live sounding drums and organ and a great bass line. There is also a glockenspiel refrain (this album includes a lot of glockenspiel and I’m not at all complaining) before the percussion drops out and droning distorted guitar concludes the track. The title track begins with guitar, vocals and a fantastically fragile violin. It also starts with probably my favourite lyrics on the album: “Once a week, I wake up and remind myself that I am going to die”. At the mid-way point of the track the guitar and violin drop out to be replaced by synthesizer and vocals before the guitars return distortedly with sympathetic percussion. This is the first track on album to feature Lula Asplund’s vocals which combine effortlessly with those of Bates.
“Telepresence” is probably the most experimental track on the album. Synth drones, glockenspiel and a very sparse sub kick all appear at the start along with layers of field recordings of conversations. Big synth drones appear half-way through which give the listener the feeling of drifting into nothingness. Well, it did me, anyway.
The Shoegaze sound returns with “Gabapentin” which is sonically lighter than the few tracks that have come before and makes very fine use of reversed sounds and more glockenspiel. A lovely synth arpeggio appears towards the end of the track. I’m a sucker for synth arpeggios especially those that are simple but really enhance a song.
“Blue Light Glow” follows and begins with a Trip-Hop style beat and driving bass line on what sounds like a Bass VI. Glitch synths, the return of violins and sampled vocals are all present too. This is by far the most diverse track on the album from an instrumental perspective with a harmonium, a singing saw and some whistle all making an appearance and it ends with an orchestra of noise.
“Three Faces (Cyanoacrylate)” is my favourite track on the album. Dreamy atmospherics and subtle soundscapes kick off the proceedings with more and more instrumentation being added as the track progresses. This addition of instruments is done to great effect and is never overpowering. There is a sublime hypnotic quality to “Three Faces (Cyanoacrylate)” and it is extremely rich in emotion. The tone changes and is much darker from 2/3 of the way through with the inclusion of an ominous bass line and horns. Lula Asplund again provides vocals, and they complement the sound so well.
“Ten Year Hangover / Deconstructed Mystery” is the perfect album closer. Bates’ vocals appear to be even more effect-ladden and along with the autobiographical lyrics and minimal instrumentation they lend the track an ethereal quality. The sound changes halfway through with guitar drones, scraped violin and feedback accompanied by a recording of Betty Bates, a relative of Kyle’s I assume, recalling a car accident she was in. To hear this recollection of a memory closing off an album very much focused on memory and its effect on the individual is a masterstroke and adds even more resonance to an already poignant album.
If you’ve read this far into my review, you can probably tell that I found Wane into It to be a very rich and rewarding listen which only improves with repeated plays. It’s definitely a contender for my AOTY and each time I play the record, it gets pushed further and further up the top 10 list.