It’s odd that, for all the Chillwave I’ve explored over the past 3 years, Teen Daze have never been one of the bands I bothered putting any time into, until now as they come along with their fourth full length LP Glacier.
As it happens, two Chillwave records have come my way in a short timespan, this record and Brothertiger’s sophomore album Future Splendors. I did recently pan the new Brothertiger album though for one very good reason; it’s stagnant. This is an issue that comes up time and again with many artists within the genre and one of the reasons why it’s often considered to be dying; so many artists who remain within its confines have no longer taken it upon themselves to bother with progression. It pains me that there is so much scope left within Chillwave that nobody is making much use of it. That is except, Teen Daze.
Glacier opens to the lovingly mellow sounds of “Alaska” and I already know this is going to be a beautiful and different listen. Soft swells of piano are assisted by swathes of softly reverbed vocals, cruising easily before a few downtempo rhythms are brought to the fore in the latter half where it picks up a little speed and energy. The engineered percussion is carefully hidden beneath some distally tolling synth note and enigmatic female voice before guitar comes into the mix towards the end. It’s a surprisingly driven piece at the end, but hovers more on the Ambient Pop boundary than anything else. “Autumnal” comes in swiftly with a largely warmer attitude; a playful synth riff and some sparkling drone in the backfield make this a surprisingly bright and lush track, a little bit of percussion giving it some momentum through the cooling days. Here, here is the epitome of the Chillwave movement; easygoing beats, downtempo atmosphere, a hint of warmth, just cool.
So far we’ve had nothing really indicative of the album’s title, but “Ice On The Windowsill” has the potential to change that. It’s chilly and restrained vocals barely audible in the mix but there’s a sense of encroaching coldness in this piece as the drums become increasingly relegated, replaced by light cymbal splashes and thin synth excursions.
I will fall into you,
I have fallen in love
Repeats the vocalist, serenaded by these gloriously downtempo beats. It’s wistful, desiring the soon to come cold times approaching and the opportunities to simply stay indoors and watch the frozen world from the cosy reprieve of the bedsheets. “Tundra” flies open to some organ-like wall of hovering sound, slowly introducing electronica snippets and guitar into its soundscape and carefully the melody begins to emerge from this otherwise frozen wasteland. Fragments of life and activity in all its multiplicity slowly becoming known and increasingly prominent in this unusual piece as arpeggiated synth sequences, something that would otherwise smack of being an interlude if it wasn’t nearly 5 minutes in length.
“Flora” oddly enough is introduced with something sounding akin to a katabatic wind, some noisy and distant abrasive current of stuttering air blowing fresh snow from the mountaintops. It’s quickly relegated, however, and a more electronic melody is brought back to where it belongs. Alas, it’s not such an interesting piece as the mid-album continues to sound a bit stale with its barely audible birdsong and running water suppressed under what sound like the propulsive melodies of a country coming back into spring, really upbeat and empowered. The ending is sublime though as it rises up in this cacophonous roar of noisy feedbacked synth before terminating abruptly.
“Listen” is the last bastion of vocals on the album (of which there are admittedly few) before we tumble into the final tracks. Once more they act more as textural assistance as opposed to definitive and deliberate lyrics in their own right. The whole affair is very low key and unsurprising, keeping a nice, gently beat going throughout while we’re distantly serenaded. We’re encouraged to listen but it’s just so hard when we can’t make it out, although that of course is the point. Eventually it sort of peters out which is perfect since it moves straight into the longest and best piece of the album, “Forest At Dawn”. The rhythmic devices of the past are replaced by this positively tape music inspired piece; a gorgeously crafted loop of lo-fi synth slowly grows as the light filters through the trees. Everywhere we look we see the same unending expanse of trees and leaves coming into view as they become illuminated, tickles of shiny synth beams and upwellings of vocal cries make for one stunning penultimate track.
This attitude thankfully continues into the similarly gorgeous closer “Walk”, encompassing a similar style of repetitive loops but taking it so much more slowly and carefully, each pulse a distinctive step that’s savouring the sights and enjoying the moment. At first glance it feels melancholic but it’s only when each of the notes is heard in their appropriate sequence and not just on their own when the entire entity becomes more beautiful and more hopeful than it would otherwise suggest. It’s so sparse and lo-fi and so precisely measured in its progression that it’s making me well up a little bit. This wash of lightweight granular noise begins to seep in and our vision blurs in these optimistic closing moments of the album before the sensation fades away forever.
Now that I have picked it apart a little bit I’ve started to see the places where it is weakest, but it has made me appreciate the beautiful moments all that more. Chillwave isn’t all about the beats and the tropical, summery attitudes it’s so often ascribed to, nor the deliberately obfuscated vocals, it’s about cool downtempo atmospheres and easygoing melodies we can get a sense of nostalgia from. Glacier craves the Summer sun as much as any other Chillwave release, make no mistake, but unlike others it acknowledges the frigid and slow beauty of Winter that we must inevitably pass through, and its presence only makes the recurrence of Summer all the more welcome. Clever, intimate and superficially uncomplicated, I like it a lot.
Shame it’s on such a shit label