Beyond the Wizards Sleeve: The Soft Bounce

Beyond the Wizards Sleeve offer a heady mixture of ‘90s EDM and ‘60s psychedelia that transcends both stylistic reference points to become something wholly new and different and, most importantly, wildly enjoyable.

Beyond the Wizards Sleeve

The Soft Bounce

Label: PIAS / Phantasy Sound
US Release Date: 2016-07-15
UK Release Date: 2016-07-01

There’s a decidedly cinematic quality to the debut release by the duo behind the oddly-named, frustratingly punctuation-less Beyond the Wizards Sleeve. The Soft Bounce begins with a gradual synth swell that crescendos into a wordless vocal that becomes swept away by an undercurrent of propulsive electronic drums and a throbbing bass. In this, “Delicious Light”, the aforementioned opening track, serves as something of a stylistic mission statement and introduction of what is to come over the ensuing 45 odd minutes. And what an impressive opening statement The Soft Bounce proves to be. Incorporating elements of rock, EDM, sound collage, psychedelia, and ambient minimalism, the album feels and sounds unlike most anything else released in 2016.

From there, it’s a thrillingly unpredictable aural adventure that manages to bend time and space into a sometimes disorienting, always satisfying distillation of pop music filtered through an omnivorous lens bent on refracting the expected beyond recognition while still remaining accessible. Listeners across the spectrum will likely find at least one moment of pure bliss to tap into, eventually drawn in to the rest of the album by its impeccable execution and seamless integration of sounds, styles and ideas into a concrete, revelatory whole.

The unsettlingly close harmony of “Iron Age” sounds like Beck circa-Odelay (“New Pollution”, to be exact) as interpreted by Tame Impala, pre-synths. It’s a strangely effective amalgamation and juxtaposition of familiar sounds shaped into something beyond these base points of reference. To be sure, Beyond the Wizards Sleeve is well aware of its influences, stylistic and otherwise, grafting whole swaths of disparate decades to one another to create a unique sound wholly their own.

Given their penchant for collaboration and carefully curated genre-hopping, it’s no surprise that the core duo behind Beyond the Wizards Sleeve has spent a good deal of the last decade remixing and producing a who’s-who of British and continental indie rock ranging from Peter Bjorn and John to Franz Ferdinand to the Chemical Brothers (a clear stylistic touchstone in terms of their swirling mix of pop and EDM). For Erol Alkan and Richard Norris, pop and indeed music in general is little more than an endless series of sounds waiting to be mixed, matched and mashed into something new and different. The gorgeous “Door to Tomorrow” marries a martial snare with lush soft-psych vocals and a post-“Eleanor Rigby” chamber orchestra to create something that sounds wholly out of time, untethered from the confines of a specific style or era.

“Black Crow” offers Zero 7’s trip-hop filtered through a swirling neo-psychedelic kaleidoscope that expands and contracts as though a living, breathing entity unto itself. It’s one of many instances wherein they combine a recognized aesthetic belonging to a very particular place and time and scramble any and all preconceived notions of what to expect in order to produce an end result that transcends mere genre pastiche to become a larger, pop-symphonic homage.

On the title track, they forego any pretense of immediacy in favor of a heavily percussive-based sound that resolves into a haunting vocal and long, drawn-out reverbed guitar chords that blanket the furiously propulsive drums. Conversely, “Finally, First” wastes little time building a sort of quiet majesty, layer upon layer, that subsequently explodes into all out psychedelic euphoria following a brief, soothing spoken word interlude. Similarly, the weirdly tripped-out “Third Mynd” takes all the requisite psychedelic tropes, wraps them in an electronic sheen and mixes it all together with an extended spoken word narrative that plays with the basic tenants of perception. It’s a heady three-and-a-half minutes and a fine way to close the album, leaving the listener wanting more.

Only “Tomorrow, Forever”, an extended, ambient meditation that serves as an instrumental interlude, lacks the focus displayed elsewhere on the album. Yet it still manages to feel of a piece with the album as a whole, offering a brief respite from the EDM-psych (or is it psych-EDM?) of the rest of the album. Regardless, it’s yet another instance of the blissed-out, sonically omnivorous approach Beyond the Wizards Sleeve have to their craft. The Soft Bounce may not be the best album of the year, but it’s certainly one of the most enjoyable listens to come along within these first seven months. And with its lack of date-stamping, it’s surely one to which we can return time and again without the slightest whiff of nostalgia for 2016, 1996 or 1966.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.