Vinyl Williams: Leminiscate

Vinyl Williams
Salonislam / No Pain in Pop

Vinyl Williams (neé Lionel Williams) has been putting out music via Bandcamp and elsewhere for a couple of years, but Leminiscate is his debut album. There may be good songs hidden somewhere on this record, but Williams buries his tracks in a thick haze of synth washes and guitar reverb, making it difficult to suss out much of anything in the music. There are vocals, sure, but they’re usually either low in the mix or used as just another sound element. Occasionally there is an interesting guitar or bass riff, too, but Williams is quick to cover those elements up in his oppressive atmospherics.

What Vinyl Williams seems to be doing is searching for the intersection of shoegaze, ambient electronic music, and psychedelia. And it’s quite possible he may have found it. But by covering up everything that makes his songs distinctive in that omnipresent aural haze, he’s created a tedious listening experience in which the tracks blur together into a flat, soupy mess. The song “Higher Worlds” is one of the very few exceptions, and even it can’t break completely free of the haze. The track has a driving, albeit muted, drumbeat, and is anchored by an angular, post-punk guitar riff. That riff is later joined by a slower, complementary guitar line. In the chorus, the riff slides down into a lower register. If the production wasn’t so muffled, “Higher Worlds” would be an exciting song. But Williams opts to slather on the synths once he gets to the chorus, and eventually those synths mostly overwhelm the cool bits in the song’s second half.

“Grassy” has a chorus in which Williams’ high-pitched melody sort of crests over the buzz, and the guitar chords change nicely to support that melody. But nothing really comes of it since the rest of the song just floats along, mostly tunelessly. “Object of the Source” is essentially a three-minute rocker, but Williams can’t commit to it, and despite minimal synth interference and only moderate reverb, his mixing and production still makes the song sound like it’s emanating from a crappy boombox in the next room. Then there’s “Open Your Mind”, a track which starts off like an acoustic ballad, then gradually adds more and more layers of sound until cutting off abruptly at the two-minute mark. The final three minutes of the song’s running time are completely devoted to unrelated, ambient synthesizer sounds.

“Open Your Mind”‘s synth overload does serve to make the album proper’s final track, “Follow in Your Dreams”, sound like a bracing change of pace. For one thing, Williams sings the song title as the refrain, and it’s easy for the listener to actually make out the words. There’s enough forward momentum in the rhythm section and guitars to keep the song sounding upbeat. This one track is a successful psychedelic shoegaze jam, at least for its first four minutes. The final three is just directionless noise, but that’s about what you expect from Williams at that point on the record. Bonus track “Harmonious Change” is notable because the production style is markedly different. The song is similar to the more tuneful bits of the main album and is clearly the same artist, but the haziness is completely absent. It’s an intriguing look into what Leminiscate might have sounded like if Williams wasn’t so intent on burying his music in aural fog.

RATING 4 / 10