Dead Melodies – Subtle Imperfections (Sparkwood Records, 2016)


Dead Melodies’ Tom Moore has started his year off nicely by following up on his debut EP from last year, Slowwave Perception. There’s been some sonic growth in the last 8 months though, and whilst there still remains a remnant hint of the original Post-Rock ambience from the EP, this time around things are a little more eerie and stripped back, resulting in a fragile collection of pieces closer to Slowcore than anything else.

There’s latitude in that assessment though, since nothing here adheres to a particular genre style; “Indigo Requiem” towards the end brings a Balam Acab flavour to the otherwise impossibly slow and gauzy album that precedes it, progressing in hushed passages with softly insistent shining tones and repetitive female cooings from Oneira, who appears on virtually every track here. “I won’t forget you” she whispers endlessly, her voice feeding the delicately wafting migrations of the piece. Penultimate “You And Me Are Ghosts” also has an alternative vibe to it not too far removed from the dark acoustic experimentations of Keith Kenniff’s side project Julien Neto, evoking denser, pulsating movements of shuffling guitar processings to override the ethereal drone backings.

These are actually late album outliers though, as much of the record before them is extremely pared back and filled with barely-there field recordings and woozy instrumentation. “It’s Too Late” is strangely not as melancholic as its title would suggest, but it does find itself lost in bleary and groundless guitar drones and floaty vocal lines, filled with an insubstantial sense of wist unable to fall back to Earth in its fluffy zero-G tumble. Impossibly, follow up “Lakes” is even more reductive and the most sparse piece of the album, lost in distant birdsong and the cool calm of refractive drones in the unfocused distance, lost in thought but ultimately at peace, which then becomes at odds with the increasingly minor keys and encroaching bleakness of static surfing “Hidden Seeken”, and the rumbling thunder and creeping piano hauntings of “Glimmers In The Darkness”.

The album finds itself bookended by two versions of the same piece: “For A Wonder…” and its reprise. Interestingly it seems the original version that opens the record is arguably the more morose of the two in its smudged guitar scourings and thin acoustic pickings supplementing Oneira’s melancholy voice, which is peculiar given how the darker pieces of the record seem to fall towards the latter half. Regardless, its reprise is more empowered and not too far removed from Emancipator in its bouncy drum machines and more energetic guitar presentation to leave things on a slightly more jaunty note.

I can’t lie, it’s not the most consistent record in the world but Oneira brings a lot of these tracks together with her voice alone which counts for a surprisingly great deal, and despite its later tracks feeling a little at odds to the sensibilities the rest of the record establishes it’s a pretty interesting and alternative listen with plenty of individually good moments.