(Copyright © 2020 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Soon Asleep (2016), 7/10 (mini)
Cold Air (2018), 6.5/10
Light Mirror (2019), 5/10
Second Self (2019), 6/10 (mini)

Drowse, the project of Oregon's Kyle Bates, was born after the 19-year-old tried to commit suicide. Drowse debuted with the EP Songs to Sleep On (2013), which documents his mental breakdown, and the six-song cassette Soon Asleep (2015), with documents his recovery. The songs of the cassette are digitally manipulated to sound heavily arranged and drenched in distortion. Bates sings them like in a trance, savoring each syllable despite the noise that threatens to crush them. The tender and whispered lullabye of Melt emerges from a dizzying shoegazing nebula and ends in a warped spacetime. Similarly, the soothing dream-pop elegy Awake drifts inside a dense cosmic wind. Meaning morphs from a slow voodoobilly to a soaring Pink Floyd-ian melody. (You) is the macabre twisted lament of a deranged mind, annihilated by a violent carillon. There are no words in Returning, just a feeble hum bathed in a light rain of sparkling guitar reverbs.

The three-song EP Memory Bed (2016) contains more folkish duets with Maya Stoner, such as Break, but also the seven-minute nightmare of I, that embeds their wordless vocals in an instrumental inferno.

Bates also formed Floating Room with the same Maya Stoner, a project that released two collections of such subdued songs: Sunless (2016) and False Baptism (2018).

His dissonant trance-folk music is better represented by the songs of Cold Air (Flenser, 2018). His vocals oscillate inside the propulsive dark-punk fanfare Rain Leak or are lost in the intricate festive metallic percussion of Death Thought, which feels like a punk band playing Indonesian gamelan. The accompaniment of Quickening is simply waves of echoes and reverbs. The melodic peak is the funereal stately elegy Two Faces, despite its destructive crescendo. Half of the nine-minute Shower is unusually violent, thanks to the loop of a grunge-y riff, while the second half opens with a fleeble folk meditation that disappears inside a swirling carillon. The sense of intimacy becomes unbearable in the songs with thinner arrangements, like the tiptoeing litany of Knowing, with perhaps the dreamiest sound, and Klonopin, in which guitar and organ stage a show of elegant contrasts.

Light Mirror (Flenser, 2019), recorded in Iceland, simplifies the shoegazing scaffolding but replaces it with a booming sound that often penalizes the music. Songs like Between Fence Posts are buried in the rumble. What emerges is the fragile and whispered Bipolar 1 and especially the warped trance of Oslo, with angelic vocal harmonies between Bates and Stoner. The harmonica and rowdy guitar of Betty evoke Neil Young. There are unpleasant mutations. Attempts at industrial dance surface in the first half of Shower Pt. 2 and in the second half of Physical World, but never reach critical mass. A marked step backwards from the shoegazing intensity of the previous album.

The four-song mini-album Second Self (2019) contains two eleven-minute compositions, a collaboration with Otayonii (aka Chinese musician Mingyu Shi) titled Sudo Beast, a witchy chant piercing a loud, dense and distorted nebula, and the ugly merry-go-round of noise of Second Self (a bit simplistic).

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