Available on: No Pain In Pop LP
The grandson of composer John Williams, had it been painter-musician Lionel ‘Vinyl’ Williams on the Star Wars job the Mos Eisley Cantina would have been a very different prospect. Suffice to say, the LA based hyphenate isn’t quite a chip off the old block.
In 2012, ‘experimental music’ increasingly translates as skilful recombination; the art of rearranging as opposed to creating. It kind of takes the art out of art-music when everything seems to come down to an equation: for example, folk + 808 = Purity Ring, or DJ Screw + country = Daughn Gibson. And indeed, if you want to play the same game here, you could reduce Lemniscate to an art-school Deerhunter + John Maus with a delay pedal: a long overdue and very mouthwatering meeting point between the uncanny future-echo of Maus’ time-between-time synthwave and Deerhunter’s beautifully melodised melancholia.
But while it may be a gorgeous combination, there’s something organic and intuitive about Williams’ sound which enables Lemniscate to transcend recombination. There’s a sense that his starting point was the unknowable interiors of his mind – always an unlimited resource for the one-off and the new – as opposed to the more earthly strategy of contriving the unprecedented from two or more styles. Lemniscate (the proper name for the infinity symbol – ∞) does what experimental music should by definition, and that’s offer a trip into the unknown and conjure the wonder implicit in that. Lemniscate is a genteel, accessible and charming ode to making it up as you go along, of venturing into the abyssal beyond in your head, or indeed the infinity.
‘Object Of The Source’ is ’60s surf pop in space, encased behind a filter of sugary fumes, while ‘Stellarscope’ is a shambolic bit of French nouvelle vague with the colours running into orbiting dream pop. The songs are layered so numerously and so chaotically that often the impression is of two songs playing one on top of other, but Williams’ coup is that beneath each track he’s installed a pretty pop song, or at least the fading fingerprint of one. ‘Follow In Your Dreams” faint acid-rock morphs into a mass of digi-interference and sweet feedback, exemplifying Williams’ tendency to take absurd tangents, turning a song on its head at the midway point. Likewise, ‘Open Your Mind’ has a boudoir sex-music feel until it dissolves into an Emeralds-esque shimmer.
It’s not all drifting ambience and fuzzy edges, though. ‘Tokyo -> Sumatra’ is carried on a spiky beat loop that judders like Big Black’s drum machine, while ‘Grassy’ also mixes sharp post-punk elements in with the dreamy wooze, a coarse guitar sound cutting through the druggy cloud. ‘Higher Ground’ meanwhile, is chillwave’s answer to motorik pop: the structure is firm even if the textures are chalky and smeared. ‘Elsewhere, ‘Inner Space’ is another slice of dirty lens kosmische, this time recalling Ariel Pink and packing a big rock-guitar finish. Then there’s the relatively crisp ‘Harmonious Change’ – a dead ringer for a Deerhunter serenade with the arpeggio packing a ’60s loner feel.
But the key here is the reverbed, unintelligible vocals – not so much vocals as another wispy melody-line in the mix. One less focal point to corrupt your blissful braincrash, without lyrics the resulting anonymity renders the sound blank, adding to both the mystery and the suggestion of a snow-pure, featureless interzone, as if Williams is unthinking in an oblivion, or, alternatively thinking to himself in the privacy of his misted soundscape, with the lyrics kept a secret. Its an impression appropriative for Lemniscate, which seems a hidden gem on the 2012 landscape.