The new album from the Portland-based Drowse feels like an unsettling but eye-opening push and pull through uncertainty about a way forward in life. It’s like the music of sitting at a metaphorical fork in the road, contemplatively pondering the juncture. That theme is at the same time both massively, widely applicable and able to be held close to the chest, illustrating just how unique the path is on which Drowse’s mastermind Kyle Bates has set down with Light Mirror, available in full June 7 via San Francisco-based experimental music label The Flenser.
Drowse’s new music never stays in one place for very long, but there’s a tight sense of control that permeates the whole, carefully constructed work anyway. Bates mostly employs a kind of especially contemplative but still richly textured shoegaze, alternating at times between basing his music on traditional-feeling instrumentation and electronics. Within this context, the creations rest on a wide array of features, stretching all the way from what feels like field recordings to hazy noise to a thunderingly intense passage that delivers a feeling of being kicked into motion. In each incarnation, the songs Bates presents seem to be pointed, direct questions for those around, carefully peeling back what previously might have been seen as an impenetrable veil to reveal some of the limits and nature of what’s going on. The music feels like taking a birds-eye view to or at least a step back from a gentle, but persistent rainfall, which as a process, delivers an in this case emotional and physical chill that you really can’t shake and demands attention.
The mostly gentle fashion in which Bates has presented the impressively sonically sprawling Light Mirror ensures that the record feels like a slowly filling in reflection of a harried mind. The fleeting, twisted elements of this mind have been harnessed and somewhat systematized, allowing for some kind of path forward to open up where previously, there might have been nothing but a curtain of darkness. Immersing you in a natural haze, the music thereby both represents a coming to terms of sorts with the environment as it is and keeps a gripping melodic undercurrent pushing you forward like a gentle shove you needed to get your boat off the shore.
Listen below via Bandcamp