Title: Wide Open Spaces
Keywords: Dreampop, Shoegaze, Post-Rock
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
I’ve got some really awesome requests I need to review, a compilation, and on top of that another very cool album from SP Recordings, but I wanted to take a moment before all of that to talk about this album, out on Sirona-Records – it’s titled Wide Open Spaces, by Galati. It’s been on my radar for awhile as I’ve listened to bits and pieces of it for the last several days. Before the review, though, I thought I would take a moment to discuss shoegaze music. So it’s like, if this album review were a little detour, what follows is a detour within a detour! We like to get pretty deep in the mire of music here at YIKIS. 😉
Even though I don’t really consider myself much of a “rock” music type of person, with some exceptions, I do love Slowdive. Lush is another group I can enjoy infrequently, Ride even more rarely, but for either one I definitely have to be in a certain moodframe. I’ve never really counted myself a fan of My Bloody Valentine, but some of the concepts that they had attempted to work into their music experimentally were at least theoretically interesting. This is just a small sample of many groups I could have discussed, but what do these bands all have in common? They’re all considered “shoegaze”, are pretty exemplary specimens of the genre even. Shoegaze is sort of a combination of certain other genre elements. It tends to have a sound like a blur of Britpop, dreampop, ambient rock, indie / garage rock, a “wall-of-sound” feel similar to Sonic Youth and an introspective and emotional quotient. It may as well just be considered post-rock, for the term “shoegaze” is itself meaningless; it was a music journalist’s catch-all buzzword that managed to spread like wildfire, and now we’re stuck with it, for better or worse… it was conceived to relate to those sort of motionless rock performers of the too-cool 1990’s who would be standing on stage staring at their shoes while playing as if deep in the music, daydreaming, or just too timid around large groups of people to want to look up. It doesn’t really relate to the music, except indirectly. I think, about as musically descriptive yet aptly appropriate to the music it describes, would be the genre I just came up with, doorpush, which is any rock performer that makes me want to leave the venue in a hurry because the music is so shitty. Galati… is not doorpush. It’s more like… door-open. Open all the doors, and let this music flow into you from every direction. It’s… really good.
The first track here is ‘Within’, which begins with two guitars, an acoustic and an electric, the latter kind of washes out at first like an ocean wave. We’re treated to some very mellow synth work and some drums. I’m definitely hearing the Shoegaze sound, unlike on that… other album, that I refuse to speak of here, but which caused me so much ill pain that I felt I needed to strike back with a bad review. No, this is very nice. It has a sunniness to it, for it’s melancholy. It’s like a bleached out Sunday sitting on a curb having a cigarette and watching the cars go by, waiting for something to happen. It’s a soundtrack type of sound, almost like a drugged-up ’90s take on an Ennio Morricone spaghetti-Western score. Amp feedback is added to the mix effectively, and everything just feels like it’s floating, floating…
… then it’s ‘Moorland’, beginning with a sizzling string section, somewhat morose piano touches. The drums creep in slowly, the strings disappear for a moment only to return in what seem to be basic flourishes. I’m loving this one, with it’s picked bass guitar sound, the drum breaks, the piano and vibraphone, the Angelo Badalamenti dark jazz undertones that occasion to change scale into more positive chords in a very post-rock fashion. Overall, it’s the harmonies and sounds used that absorb me on this one… I feel like I could be slow-dancing in a darkened bar while the walls peel.
‘Cloudburst’… bursts in, sort of. It’s got a great sound with the guitars, that sound at times like they’re both screaming with feedback and breaking away under duress. The acoustics are nice. I feel like dust is rising up and settling again as the piece moves. I just see dynamic images in my head of deserts. As the drums emerge toward the end I believe I see a Cadillac rolling in from a distance, but the heat radiating off of the sand makes it seem a mirage.
After this is the more ethereal ‘Northern Lights’. It’s got a touch of sadness to it… I almost wrote ‘sandness’ there, probably because after the switch it was like going from one extreme to another and part of my subconscious mind was still among the dunes. Here, instead, I’m looking up at the stars from within a dark forest… at least for a moment. When the drums come in, just getting slammed – though they are lower in the mix than it feels! – the mood gets more abstract. This is just a nice piece, with drums, piano and synths making up most of the sound profile. Wisps of wind blow and there’s this really nice combination of flautish tones with the wind whispering at certain points. It ends with a low drone of cello and piano.
Then we get some cool drumwork on ‘In The Universe’, followed up with pianos, twinkling synths, atmospheres that almost sound like multi-tuned gongs ringing out into the abyss. I think, finally, that I’m hearing some choir sounds on this track… they’re very dark, and at various times throughout the album I’ve wondered if maybe this or that sound were a choir, but then the sound would sort of change and I wouldn’t stop to try and check it out due to wanting to press on, hear everything through. Loving the guitars for all their subtlety on this track! There is a vocal sample added in about space. One of the really great things about this album so far that I feel like mentioning is the overall sense of space. The guitars are not an endless presence, they float in, fade out just like many of the other sounds, which is super refreshing. True talent.
‘Desire’ is bright, somewhat jazzy. The piano is nice, as is the feedback, the stabs of rhythmic bass, really all of the sounds. Oh, and the melodies are really great, chill and just with that touch of darkness that seems to permeate the album, but only ever in short measure. The only real criticism I have thus far is with the drums, which would normally not be what I would think I’d need to criticise… and it’s not the volume of them that is problematic for me, which I feel is perfect almost, I think it was an editing decision they may not have made lightly putting them at the loudness they are at in the mix of this album, and that aspect works. It’s just how they begin to feel repetitive, endless, filling up too much of the space and not giving much back in return.
‘Silver’ gets the beat going, adding really nice, reverberating… guitar? It almost sounds like a horn! The washes of distortion from the other guitar are also really cool. This is one of my favourite tracks from the album so far, because it’s almost like a downtempo / chill dance track, maybe even in a post-punk sort of way. It kind of crawls, really. It’s got vocals that I’m enjoying as well. All of the elements of this track seem to work well for it, even the drums which now feel a lot more like a needed groove with that bassline pulse. I’m just like… yeah, shakin’ my head. Can imagine putting this on quite often, maybe even throwing it into a post-punk mix or something.
After that is ‘Feels Like I’m Breaking Up Inside’, which is just awesome! The drums here have changed, have been filtered into the low mids. The guitars and atmospheres are hypnotic, degenerate or perhaps shamanic? It can be difficult to say, but I’m swirled up within it, flutes and all . If you’ve ever tried to imagine what it would be like if you were twirled cartoonishly around the spokes of a wheel as it turned, this might be an audiological equivalent. Then the music goes into another section, with samples, guitar dirges that could have been French horns, acoustic strumming… huge sound on this track.
The titular ‘Wide Open Spaces’ that closes the album is also, clearly, the opus, clocking in at twenty-one minutes and twenty-four seconds… no other track on this album got over six and a half minutes, for comparison’s sake. It begins with slowly advancing drums cloaked in a fog of distortion and choir-vox. These brilliant singular slaps of bass guitar come in, giving the track something of a sense of funk, but in a really martial way. It’s like a deathmarch, really. It goes like this for awhile, until a guitar grows from out of the gloom and hangs over head sending it’s feedback frequencies straight into the brain. The rhythm here almost sounds like some kind of experimental electro groove on a drum machine, all bass kicks and rimshots. Frequencies continue to melt, my field of vision is red. Eventually, things break away and we’re left with trace vapours of distortion as a different sort of track sounds to be emerging. I hear string resonance, almost percussive as if the strings are being malleted, and a bassline. I’m enjoying the procession of sounds… suddenly, we soar into space, but… what is this?.. have the aliens learned to play meandering folk guitar? How can this be? Stars shoot by and nebulae echo out into the vastness of the universe while a meteor-riding space cowboy finds a nice comfortable orbit around an unheard of planet called Earth.
Whether you’re wanting something to contemplate alone or veg out to in the background while you and your friends share a spliff, this is a pretty solid record. You might even find yourself moving to the music here in wide open spaces, perhaps in your own private Idaho. Somehow, even with that massive track at the end, I still want more… maybe, if we’re lucky, Galati will share more of their work with us soon. I certainly hope so! Here’s the link, as usual: