PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Vinyl Williams: Brunei

Less than a decade after it made a brief appearance on the critical radar, hypnogogic pop appears to be vying for a revival at the hands of Vinyl Williams and his gorgeous Brunei.


Vinyl Williams

Brunei

Label: Company
US Release Date: 2016-08-26
UK Release Date: 2016-08-26
Amazon
iTunes

Is it possible that the cyclical nature of modern pop music has sped up and doubled back on itself to the point of time essentially collapsing in on itself? While it’s 2016, it might as well be 2010 or 2005 or 2000 or even 1995 based on the speed at which younger and younger groups are reviving styles that served as demarcation points within the industry. From the grunge revivalists, to those rehashing emo’s better elements, to what now appears to be a hypnogogic pop revival.

A brief blip on the musical radar, hypnogogic pop was characterized by its ephemeral, unintelligible lyrics, swirling, vintage-sounding percussion and use of drums as the gently driving force. It was a movement befitting its name, featuring acts like Delorean, Toro y Moi, Neon Indian, Ducktails, and Washed Out. These names alone help conjure images of the music itself, all warped sound, somnambulant vocals and synth-heavy instrumentation.

With Brunei, Vinyl Williams leads what could well be seen as a revival of this short-lived fad within the indie rock world, so much so that it would be hard to tell the exact year in which the album was released. Throughout, his vocals are wrapped in a veil of reverb and echo to the point of becoming an inconsequential part of the songs' thematic content and more an additional instrumental voice soaring atop the electronic drums, fuzzed-out guitars and bleary synths.

Both “Riddles of the Sphinx” and “L’Quasar” function as prime examples of the hypnogogic pop sound with their fluttering drums, layered synths and non-descript vocals. The latter benefits from a soaring, triumphant chorus that carries the song well beyond the sonic morass within which many of his predecessors found themselves bogged down as they took the genre’s sonic principles to washed out extremes.

“Feedback Delicates” relies on a squelchy effected guitar line that serves as the song’s central motif, one which breaks up the relative monotony of the walls of sound present on nearly all other tracks. At five minutes, it flows almost suite-like from this initial statement to a psych-rock bridge back into the main guitar figure. It’s one of Brunei’s most stylistically diverse moments and a clear highpoint from a compositional standpoint, hitting all the requisite hypnogogic pop tropes while also managing to throw in a bit of heady psych rock for good measure.

On “Celestial Gold”, he manages to create a sound befitting the title, all astral projected pop and subtly winning hooks. While much of the album is fairly nondescript upon cursory listens, repeated, almost meditative time spent with the album reveals its deceptive complexities. With so much going on, it’s almost a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees, the sound washing over the listener with each individual element buried and wending its way throughout the track.

Given the relative stylistic sameness throughout, there are no real low points to speak of, but the album does tend to find itself dragging slightly around the midway point with the back-to-back combination of the rather shapeless “Evol” and “Voidless”. This isn’t to say either is without merit, rather they lack the discernible melodic elements present elsewhere and thus find themselves awash in a sea of sound without any real defining moments.

And while a hypnogogic pop revival may be a tad premature, Vinyl Williams’ Brunei is a fine opening salvo, staying true to its most direct inspirations while ever so subtly pushing the form into vaguely new directions. It’s by no means a revelatory or game-changing statement, rather a fine addition to an existing catalog of related artists trafficking in the more blissed-out elements of indie rock. Headphones and a quiet space to listen and chill out required for maximum impact.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.