New Orleans artist MJ Guider’s new album Sour Cherry Bell packs an ambient synth pop dreamscape that feels pulled from the midst of industrial din.
There’s a steady whir throughout some of the background of the main melodies, and the album’s opening and closing tracks — called “Lowlight” and “Petrechoria,” respectively — float into melody-less, ambiance-focused passages. Simultaneous to these elements, the flowering melodies that are planted across the album deliver directly poignant beauty.
The listening experience of Sour Cherry Bell feels quite unique. There’s a lot of space to really steep yourself in the album’s central perspective, since the record includes plenty of room for the music’s sonic imprint to shine without getting overpowered by lyrics. The album’s perspective feels like doing yoga in the middle of a crowded dance floor — there’s an alluring serenity that MJ Guider has extricated from the midst of the sonic haze that’s packed into Sour Cherry Bell. The record’s contents feel like sunset-streaked clouds that have somehow been captured and presented for listeners; the poignant, warm rhythms across the album feel like peace settling in amidst tension.
The interplay between the richly immersive shoegazey ambiance and the more direct rhythms, some of which feel gently danceable, is a quite intriguing draw on Sour Cherry Bell. One could approach the listening journey from either direction — the album brings fleeting sunsets down to earth, and it also opens up a space for a kind of poignant meditative soulfulness amidst our earthly, dance-inflected ambitions.
More earthy moments appear when the record ventures into invitingly rhythmic territory. Both “The Steelyard” and “Quiet Time,” for instance, feature a kind of tinny percussion whose catchy methodical pulses approach industrial territory, although they’re not exactly abrasive. “Simulus” is another beat-oriented track, although it’s tones feel slightly fuller. There, and on moments like the track “Sourbell,” there’s a shimmer in the sound, as if when the hits of the rhythm land, the beats are falling across a nighttime pond and sending ripples outward.
The waves of ambiance feel very key to the album’s experience. The shimmering effects round out the record’s contents, filling in much of the space in its sonic portrait that might otherwise be left blank. The album delivers a sonic journey, rather than a collection of beats and rhythms (although that would, of course, be great too). Listening feels like a peaceful solitary nighttime walk under the stars with no rush to the destination. The journey carries the richness.
Listen to Sour Cherry Bell below! It’s out via Kranky.