Sunday, November 27, 2011

REVIEW// Vinyl Williams: Lemniscate

     I've polished off the last of my email requests, so its time to return to the rather daunting backlog of music I never got round to covering. 'Lemniscate' is the debut album from Vinyl Williams, an experimental pop group fronted by Lionel Williams and hailing from the fair city of Los Angeles. It's a nine-track effort that arrived way back in August and is available from the Bandcamp for no cost whatsoever, which is reason enough to grab it! A surreal and mesmerisingly abstract LP, 'Lemniscate' explores a kaleidoscopic spectrum of sound, brimming with orchestral scope and subtle sonic complexities, all beautifully realised through layers of attenuated texture. In coming to the album I expected something incredibly hard to 'get', but what I found was a record that was incredibly accessible. Take away the noise and the experimentation and you're left with a pretty solid melody and beat behind most numbers, grounding the tracks and creating something very easy to sit back and just take in. There is a fascinating and rewarding intelligence within 'Lemniscate', blissed out and oozing calm vibrations. It lulls and swells and pulsates under waves of pure serenity, lapping the shore of a remote island, caverns echoing back the distant tide. A content sincerity weaves its way throughout each track in turn, though not in an ignorant way. Instead, it's more of a suggestive blithe elation, reflective and profound and infinitely charming, and I just love it!
     Opening with 'Tokyo -> Sumatra', a flurry of percussion explodes into your ears, softly spoken synths softening the edges and pushing them to the back of the music. The vocal talents of Lionel reverberate over sonic hills and vast, incomprehensible plains, hypnotic in their unwavering, steady tone. Closing with a cosmic epiphany of sorts, it makes your problems feel small, insignificant against the backdrop of the universe. 'Higher Worlds' is an apt follower, pounding under a film of nostalgic crackle and building with unanticipated benevolence. The throbbing rhythm is crystal clear, with a comfortable melody in toe. A tangible and strangely ethereal tone to the track marks it out as one of my favourites, surpassing both the muffled quirks of 'Stellarscope' and the psychedelic shoe-gaze ethos portrayed in 'Who Are You?'. 'Grassy's tribal beat and wind instruments rustle amongst the reeds of a magnificent river. Decidedly more ambient than the other tracks, things are slowed down, yet still retain that refreshing energy I've come to expect from Vinyl Williams. A glittering finish leads into the passionate vocals of 'Object Of The Source', a powerful, more serious creation from John Williams talented grandson. The drums and guitar flow as one, backing a 'post-punk meets dream-pop' sensibility. 'Inner Space' hits off with an immediately easy-going groove, natural and simple and oh so soothing. 'Open Your Mind' is the penultimate song off of 'Lemniscate', delicate singing bouncing off cloud as the walls of your mind melt away. The words during these five minutes, and indeed throughout the album are the most distinguishable, but that's not what the music is about. It is the layering of notes and sound and texture to achieve something much more. Spiritual or not, it massages an aching, uptight mentality, allowing thoughts and notions to seep in. It's more of an experience rather than simply a collection of songs, and one well worth baring.
     The final number, 'Follow Your Dreams', is a seven minute epic, but it's not until about half way through that you can begin to see the finish line, emerging from the noise. Synth and string and bell accumulate into a surprisingly tension fuelled ending. 'Lemniscate' was merely a dream you come to understand. An escape from the madness and ravaged land that is your dreaded reality. As the dream draws to a close, you can sense something it wrong. A tonal change, ever so subtle, causes your brow to furrow and your fingers to clench. Bullets rip through the seams holding your Utopia together, a terrifying black dust clogging your lungs and obscuring your beautiful vision. It's a compelling conclusion to a captivating record. Stream 'Higher Worlds' above, then I urge you to download this album!