When great minds converge into a specific sound with broad strokes of dreaminess and the urgency of electronic beats, you end up with otherworldly sounds, like the ones found in the début album by Gazelle, Sunblown.
The past life of the two musicians making up this Gemini monster is an impressive one. Jeff Dimpsey played in the always amazing (and missed) band that pioneered Space Rock, Hum. He then played in another excessively underrated band called National Skyline. Adam Fein, the other face of Gazelle, was in Absinthe Blind (even more underrated!), creators of one of the dreamiest phases of shoegaze I’ve ever heard with my filthy, unworthy ears.
Contrary to what you would expect, Gazelle sounds nothing like the previous musical dabblings of either. Sure, it does has that electronic beat that National Skyline did so well and the sad, nostalgic sounds of Absinthe Blind, but there’s a heavy amount of dance and electronica in this very dreamy release. ‘Jets’ is a veritable wake up call, with its exotic sounds adding a strange tinge to the track. Love the beat in this one. The song segues into ‘Bridges’ and if you ever wondered how a lucid dream sounds, this is it. The calm urgency at the beginning is the moment when r.e.m. kicks in your sleep pattern, the dancey beat is when you realise you are in a dream and you can control it to your will’s desires.
Sunblown’s basic but utterly touch of brilliance is that it feels like a complete album. The songs crossfading give the ideas a continuation, a sort of momentum that allows them to continue trotting along with a good pace and then explore new ideas, arms well spread and soaring above the sky. The solemn intimacy of ‘Sonhead’ feels like waking up, slowly, in a cold winter’s day, when the Sun won’t warm the cockles. How is the rest of the day after you downed some coffee and a danish? Well, ‘Lineal’ feels like a complete day: ups and downs; smiles and cries. ‘Lineal’ is a gorgeous track, easily my fave of the whole lot, with the unnerving drone at the end feeling like a sunset in a busy city street.
Mind you, with all the electronic beats and bleeps, it’s not all uptempo and there are moments of beautiful experimentation. ‘Phasedown’, with its trippy atmosphere that waves like a cosine function, is an aural delight. The fact that the angelic voice of Erin Fein drops by to add to the ethereal atmosphere is just perfect. Again, the swelling sounds towards the end fade slowly, crossfading into yet another venture in the music realm. Juxtaposition arrives in the form of ‘At last, friend’, which although still quite chilled down, it has a sense of desperation (and sensitivity) that is both reassuring (the peppy rhythm) and heartbreaking (that piano, wow!).
For as much as nostalgia and sadness drench this release (‘I’ll be late again’ is heartbreaking), there’s always a sunnier side that offers a way out (‘The first rays’). It’s this clash of emotions that makes Sunblown so human and at the same time, so celestial. If you like this sort of stuff, do check the previous art of both Adam Fein and Jeff Dimpsey, you’ll find some real gems there. And with that said, let’s hope a new Gazelle record is not too far in the distance…
Words: Sam J. Valdés López