El tercer disco de A Sunny Day in Glasgow se llama Autumn, again. Se acaba de publicar, y la banda ha tenido el detalle de compartirlo con todo aquel que quiera descargar sus temas. A la venta se pone una versión en vinilo o la misma en Mp3. El esfuerzo de una banda en un tercer disco normalmente se centra en decidir si se toma una nueva dirección sonora a la de los dos primeros álbumes, que normalmente guardan una estrecha relación; o tomar un nuevo camino en busca de nuevas orientaciones. A Sunny Day in Glasgow no sólamente no han variado su rumbo, sino que, en nuestra opinión, han ahondado en sus habituales gustos musicales. Su sonido es una especie de mezcla entre Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine y cierta producción de The Cure. Su género preferido es el Dream-Pop. Todo ello aderezado de innumerables arreglos electrónicos, ritmos secuenciados, y unas voces absolutamente alteradas en busca del ambiente más etéreo y oculto posible. El resultado final de Autumn, again (2010) ha dejado de ser tan epatante como el de Ashes Grammar (The JangleBox, Septiembre, 2009), y más bien reitera y reitera un sonido que al final de las escuchas puede resultar un tanto machacón y repetitivo. Grabado a caballo entre Sidney y su Philadelphia natal, el sonido del álbum resulta en algunos momentos un tanto desvahído, en tanto que su personal ha grabado los instrumentos, voces y demás en distintos lugares del planeta. Ésto no quiere decir nada si el trabajo de producción es impecable y oculta estas pequeñas máculas, pero no es el caso. Por momentos echamos en falta algo más de garra y de empuje en muchos de sus cortes, demasiado divagantes entre nubes de sintetizadores y teclados que, eso sí, crean unas atmósferas de lo más inquietantes (Fall in love, Petition to refrain to repetition, Moments on the lawn, Violet Mary haunts me…). Personalmente, me quedo con apenas un par de temas del disco: la excelente Drink drank drunk, donde de alguna manera se resume la esencia del álbum: Dream-Pop, preciosas voces y coros -tratadas hasta el infinito, eso sí-, y ritmos contundentes. Algo así a lo que facturan School of Seven Bells. Calling it love isn´t it love (Don´t fall in love) es otro tema apreciable, en cuanto tiene de onda Shoegaze perfectamente entendida e interpretada. Un disco que hará las delicias de los oídos ávidos de Dream-Pop, eso sí, convenientemente alterado y arreglado electronicamente.
“The standard form-follows-function justification for dream-pop’s aural clutter goes something like this: Because the music focuses on memories and emotional pasts, it makes sense that it’s fuzzy, ambiguous, and rose-tinted. That’s what memories are like, after all. Or so the arguments go. So sometimes the most refreshing thing about A Sunny Day in Glasgow is that they seem to remember that dreams aren’t vague recitations, they’re constructions. They achieve this not by writing catchy songs and then wrapping them in yarn, but by continuously unraveling and re-messing whatever is in front of them.
On their third proper album, Autumn, Again, ASDIG continue to write pop songs that basically fail to distinguish music from memory anyway, so fragmentary are their creations. A first kiss here, a Chiffons melody there, some of Cluster’s keyboards chewed and then wadded under a desk. Autumn, Again follows Ashes Grammar and the Nitetime Rainbows EP as the final remnant of a burst of creativity that saw the band rotate their lineup, record, and then tour extensively. Autumn, Again was finally finished during a recent break, and it’s more of the same: bandleader Ben Daniels mapping and manipulating the airy voices of Annie Fredrickson, Jen Goma, and whatever else his bandmates float his way. It is more concise (conveniently, coincidentally, half as long as Ashes Grammar) and less wily than its predecessor, often relying on comparatively sturdy and rock band-y arrangements.
They are playful in the way that, say, Belle and Sebastian are playful, caching lovelorn sentiments in junior-high language and girl-group sighs: “How does somebody say when they like you?” “Calling It Love Isn’t Love (Don’t Fall in Love)” is, structurally, one of the band’s simplest songs ever: flushed acoustic guitars, snares on the 2′s and 4′s, an electric guitar solo. The very next song– catch the title: “This Assclown Eats Ambien OR Nobody Likes You (No Art)”– grabs lustily at over-reverberated, 4AD-style atmosphere. And still, there are occasions when ASDIG just take off: when the beat hits during “Drink Drank Drunk” or when the voices bob and weave between the interjecting synth candyland of “Fall in Love”. If bands were in the habit of pressing 10 and 20-second moments to 7″ vinyl, ASDIG would make a killing.
The stakes of Autumn, Again seem lower, which is disappointing because the stakes for Ashes Grammar– an ambitious album, but an ambitious album by a minor Philadelphia dream-pop group– were already pretty low. Autumn, Again is a self-admitted lateral step for the band, but it’s hard to argue with the distribution model: after the vinyl/digital-only Nitetime Rainbows, Autumn, Again will be offered as a free download (as well as on limited vinyl). ASDIG don’t want to clutter our shelves, they want merely to empty their brains. Indulging them is a pleasure” (pitchfork.com)
Surreal: “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” Fantastic: “based on fantasy: not real”
That sounds about right. There is no better way to describe A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s Ashes Grammar, in fact. Its songs suspend themselves in mid-air and possess a persistent eerie other-worldliness that is intense enough to raise a doubt in your mind as to whether they exist at all.
The first three tracks canonically layer themselves over each other in successive ripples; the minuscule ‘Magna for Annie, Josh and Robin’ laying itself down as a metallic carpet for the elegantly enrobed ‘Secrets at the Prom’. Sibling vocalists Robin and Lauren Daniels’ voices twist and braid themselves into each other, and this harmonic bundle then bumps into the looming figure of ‘Slaughter Killing Carnage.’ Suddenly aware of its egregious error, ‘Secrets…’ nervously regains its composure by backing away slowly and giving this longer, stronger, more ominous track the right of way.’Failure’ is the first clearly defined track. Significantly (and surprisingly, given its name) jauntier than its more languid predecessors, this cheery, jangly little melody has been carefully crafted so as to get the most out of the vocal/instrumental dynamics. Thoughtfully peppered percussion through the track acts like a series of semicolons more so than a constant underline. Brother/founder Ben Daniels has admitted in interview that, barring the likes of the Cocteau Twins, Stereolab and the Magnetic Fields, he finds the majority of shoegaze era bands ‘horrible.’ I am saddened by such a harsh choice of words. I am also a little befuddled because does the blissful ‘Close Chorus’ not bear an uncannily apparent resemblance to these very bands? As it majestically crashes free of its ‘Curse Words’ cocoon, flirtatious distortion tickles the sisters’ brilliantly blended voices, indecipherable lyrics meshed with warbling coos. ‘Horrible’? Not really.
‘Shy’ is the album’s acme of surrealism – so genuinely dreamlike and ethereal, as to be nearly twilit. All thanks to the broken, disembodied, poorly enunciated sigh that is its centrepiece. Meanwhile, ‘Evil, with Evil, Against Evil’ is unsettlingly chirpy as optimistic handclaps interrupt a predominantly spooky undercurrent. Appropriately titled ‘Nitetime Rainbows’ is a gracefully faltering narcoleptic which drifts in and out of the perpetually hazy realm of reality. On an album of insecure track durations, I am glad that this one got to be among the longest.The watery ‘Starting at a Disadvantage’ builds a marionette out of what appears to be a mandolin by making it dance over a pulsating rhythm. Finally ‘Life’s Great’ lowers you smoothly into the sparkling ‘Headphone Space’ which bubbles away happily till it ultimately morphs into a slinky and slithers away into silence. Then you have ‘schizophrenic.’ It’s not a song on the album, it’s a word. Frequently misconstrued as synonymous with completely unrelated mental illness Dissociative Identity Disorder (erstwhile Multiple Personality Disorder), schizophrenia is in fact characterised by a disturbance in an individual’s perception of reality. The brain of a person so unfortunately afflicted finds it difficult to tell apart what is real and what is not. … see what I’m getting at? Schizophrenic, surreal and fantastic – that’s Ashes Grammar” (drownedinsound.com)