By very definition, the shoegazing genre is that of the introvert; the art of carefully placing a word between trenches of distortion whilst letting the guitars do the emotional lifting. So, when A Sunny Day in Glasgow juxtapose that against a soaring dream-poppy vocal exuberance, we’re really hearing all the hallmarks of a band facing one hell of an identity crisis. Yet somehow – for a band that spans continents – everything on Sea When Absent is on the same page, and the result is a bevy of hard-hitting stories that embraces these differences and excels on both sides of the coin.
Indeed, it’s all a bit startling when ‘Byebye, Big Ocean (The End)’s wall of sound breaks forth, but just as shoegaze is wont to do, the crashing chaos coalesces into melody and harmony much like that of the splash and spray of waves against the coast. Separated, these are sounds of lonely repetitious guitars and solitary synth licks, but combined they get lost in the anonymity of the sonic swirl to tower far above the sum of their parts. The wall then abates for a moment, splitting so vocal cascades can rain openly through the vacated chasm until they are amplified by a sea of rejuvenated electronic cracks. The clashing serves to elevate the instruments – voice, guitar, and drum alike – to delightful levels of audial elation.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow also take quite a few risks here, splattering Sea When Absent with an endless supply of style-shifts and ‘that could work’ ideas. On single “In Love with Useless”, the emotional climax erupts with the clearest guitar riff of the album, fleetingly resembling My Bloody Valentine’s atmospheric leans, only to be dropped in a heartbeat for a pulsating industrial rhythm. It’s unbelievably jarring, but recovers swimmingly when the guitar reemerges, replenishing what was lost and constructing even higher waves of sound in glorious epiphany. ‘Never Nothing’ sees darting synths shoot like rockets wildly into the empty echoes of the reverbing vocals, sharing the blank space with the subtle instrumentation for maximum effect. It’s more staring into the early evening sky than down at the ground.
And undoubtedly staring too; lost in thought and oblivious to the surrounding pandemonium. In fact, A Sunny Day in Glasgow embrace the disorder and make it very much their own. That’s where they decide to take their stand, right in the middle-ground between poppy vocal leads and drowning, misguided moaning. It’s pop music that unravels and unwinds without ever fully revealing its true nature. Sea When Absent keeps these feelings underwater and out of sight, careful to harness the energy of each beat as fuel for the journey to come. It’s outward crying music for the constantly reasoning. It’s the dream of escape from those all too often caught looking at the floor.