Home USA News Review: Drowse’s “Wane into It” is a beautifully crafted meditation on loss

Review: Drowse’s “Wane into It” is a beautifully crafted meditation on loss

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The Portland artist and producer experiments with indie rock and electronic ambient on his remarkable fourth album.

Drowse’s fourth album, Wane into It, ends ten years before it began. On the closing track, “Ten Year Hangover / Deconstructed Mystery,” Kyle Bates describes himself at 19, “hangovered all the time,” learning Ableton and “obsessed with Replica by Oneohtrix Point Never.” Now 29, the Portland-based songwriter and producer weaves slowcore, shoegaze, and ambient electronica into a unique bed for his musings on memory, death, and what it means to know someone.

First and lead single “Untrue in Headphones” immediately showcases Bates’ one-of-a-kind approach to production with thick dueling bass melodies and deconstructed drum machines. He sings softly, mixing abstraction with simple imagery in lines like “Dreams come crashing down on that Amtrak in the Northeast.”

The sonic space gradually fills with organs, synths and vibraphone, along with the otherworldly guitar and vocals of Bates labelmate and collaborator Madeline Johnston, aka. A midwife. “Mystery Pt. 2” with an eerie sparse acoustic guitar melody. Even when the soundscape gets hazy, Bates’ simple melodies keep you focused, and the meticulous detail in the production rewards repeated listens.

Three years after recording Drowse In “Light Mirror,” Bates moved between states and dealt with the deaths of several family members—experiences that color the themes in this project. Sometimes he recedes into memory, be it through vague visions such as “Midnight, Oakland, December 9: Two above a burning light, ash drifting through the trees” on “Mystery Pt. 2,” or even using a recording of his family’s conversation as the only words for “Telepresence.”

Other times the approach is much more direct, such as the Duster-esque realization of “30’s on its way” on “Gabapentin” or the first line of the dark title track “Once a week, I wake up and remember myself that I’m going to die.” Even with a beautiful hook that is sung back and forth with Lula Asplund in the coda, “Wane into It” is one of the darkest songs.

Later, “Blue Light Glow” represents a more upbeat moment on the album, with a jazzy drum loop and synths humming as if performing calculations in the background. The piece goes through several stages, culminating in a dissonant jam, and features a noise parade created by Sprain’s Alex Kent. A rare moment when the band creates the illusion of playing live. Although much of the instrumentation is natural instruments, they are collaged together in a way that resembles a piece of abstract art rather than Bates making music in a room with other musicians.

Loud synths and string textures in every song, but always giving way to guitars and vocals when needed – the use of field recordings creates a wonderful atmosphere. The sound becomes so open that when listening to an album while walking or traveling by train, the noises outside merge with the music.

The record’s most ambitious sounds and devastating observations come in the last part. On the penultimate track “Three Faces (Cyanoacrylate),” Bates ruefully realizes, “I don’t know anybody, and nobody knows me. Is it realistic to know?” Pointillistic synths join simple guitar patterns as Bates reminisces about the early 2010s, when he “wasn’t passing out every weekend” and there weren’t “tears in the soup and old friends.” The song eventually turns into a modern classic with polyrhythmic strings and percussion, turning into ominous hard rock.

The beautiful Ten Year Hangover / A Deconstructed Mystery confronts death, or at least death, with a recording of his late grandmother revealing that she was thrown through the windshield in a car accident when she was a child. Most of the album was recorded by Bates himself, but the murky bass and screeching strings for the finale were taken from a full-band performance in 2019. The sound is dense and raw — but communal at the same time — and doesn’t let the album end on too dark a note.

From deathcrash, Ethel Cain to Black Country, New Road, this year has been great for a variety of slow and experimental indie options. Anyone who hears any of these should make sure they don’t miss “Wane into It”. It’s a creative peak for Drowse and undoubtedly one of the best records of the year.

Contact Jack Solomon at [email protected]

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