Bedroom pop makes for a curiously intimate listening experience, allowing the listener a fly-on-the-wall view of a stranger's inner world. It's a refreshing respite from the world of celebrity selfies and cynical marketing strategies where smug marketing analysts sleep soundly, knowing they can manipulate the public into buying whatever they put out.
For a musical offering to ultimately succeed, there must be an element of risk, of unpredictability, while still sounding relatable enough that people will want to listen. The problem with too much glossy mainstream pop these days is there is no doubt that people will buy. People are guaranteed to snatch up a Miley Cyrus or Kanye West record, regardless of quality.
With bedroom pop, however, you have to take a chance, spending your valuable time peering through murky production values and deciding for yourself if a piece of music is worthwhile, what it says to you, not what the press release tells you to think.
If Receiver, from the Canadian artist David Sklubal, operating under the name Potential Red, is a transmission from his inner sanctum, it must be located in a crystalline cavern in the dark heart of a dead star. Sklubal's guitars glisten like electromagnetic waves from Alpha Centauri, while a Korg Volca Keys synth provides an aurora of gentle, floating warmth, while also acting as jet thrusters, giving the tracks some forward momentum, like the simple but effective 8-bit bass line of "Life Force."
Receiver suffers from a couple typical missteps of self-production. The drums and synths are slightly too hot in the mix, while the vocals are hard to pick out. It's more of a stylistic decision than a mistake, however, as "vocals as texture" is a common approach to shoegazey/dreamy music. It creates the curious sensation of David Sklubal, the person, peering out through a dense fog machine curtain, like the sun breaking out through the clouds. Being someone who's not that driven by lyrics, it's not a problem for this listener, but may prevent ultimate crossover appeal.
Instead, you have to pay attention. You have to take a risk and decide to care about Potential Red. A great deal of care and craft has clearly gone into this slight four-track EP, as can be seen through the short laundry list of vintage guitar pedals Sklubal employed. Sklubal even went so far as to master Potential Red, so it's clearly a labor of love and devotion.
Receiver is like a dreamier, mellower, but just as emotive record as The Postal Service's Give Up, and will thrill those that love the dreamy, ambient mixture of heartfelt pop songs and glistening, interesting electronics. It also works as a less dour take on The Cure or Joy Division, who were big influences on Receiver.
It is safe to say that we can expect great things from David Sklubal and Potential Red!
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