Gliss: Langsom Dans

[10 April 2013]

By David Maine

'Langsom Dans' is languid and ethereal, yet suprisingly bouncy.

Gliss is a breezy, ethereal, shoegaze-inspired L.A. trio whose not-so-secret weapon is Danish expatriate Victoria Cecilia on vocals. Cecilia’s breathy delivery, layered with plenty of reverb and disorientation, suits the tenor of these songs perfectly: “I guess they call it love”, she murmurs at one point, and that pretty much sums things up here. Elsewhere she moan-croons, “Being with you is like being a kite in the sky.” The sentiment, poetic as it is, is nonetheless not entirely pleasant.

Too languid for traditional shoegaze, and lacking the piles of heavily distorted guitar, the band nonetheless conjures up that genre’s ambivalence and uncertainty. Plenty of synths leaven the guitar attack—which is so minimal as to hardly be considered such—but there is still a good deal of propulsive verve here.

Opener “Blood on My Hands” (melodramatic song title alert) sets the pattern nicely and prepares the listener for what is to follow. Layered synths kick off the proceedings, before ominous drums set in with a tribal pounding, followed by harmonized, mopey vocals. Before anything can get too indulgent, though, the song abruptly shifts into something altogether more melodic and pretty. Before you know it, those pounding drums are on their way to sounding almost reassuring, until yet another shift brings a differently ominous tone to the outro. It’s a neat trick, and indicative of the way the band’s songs can morph even within their relatively brief running time.

“A to B” follows this with a more straightforward rocker, but the movement is provided primarily through thudding bass and percussion; synth accents fill the gaps, while the almighty guitar has little to do but buzz around the margins. Despite this, the song undeniably rocks, as do any number of other tracks, particularly “The Sea Tonight”. With its catchy chorus, angsty vocals, and muscular fuzzed-out backbone, “The Sea Tonight” is one of the most memorable songs on an album full of strong contenders.

Elsewhere, the band exchanges thumping beats for quieter, more melodic moments. “Through the Mist” is a lovely song which (notwithstanding its hip-hop beat samples) rests its weight squarely on the vocals, which happily are up to the task. “Weight of Love” is a downtempo tune that piles its vocals atop a gauzy bed of nervous guitar and clouds of synth. It’s nothing terribly groundbreaking, but well done nevertheless. “Black Is Blue” is another downtempo tune, its pace so slow as to be glacial, but one that avoids tedium by virtue of sonic activity at any given moment.

The news isn’t entirely good. There are a few weaker songs on the record, if no real clunkers. The chiming synth and chirpy melody of “Hunting” come perilously close to sounding like Kate Bush at her most uninspired, while album closer “Kite in the Sky” should, at eight and a half minutes, serve as a kind of closing statement for the band; instead it’s more of the same, only twice as long. Despite its length, it fails to impart any significant weight and serves as a slightly dissatisfying way to close.

These are quibbles, though. Gliss is an accomplished band, and Langsom Dans is worth commending.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/169502-gliss-langsom-dans/