Phases is the debut album from Slumbernaut, a Wales-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. It’s a long EP (or short LP, depending on your view) where he’s done it all: writing, performing, engineering, mixing and mastering all in his home studio.
Slumbernaut tells us that he wanted to create “a full, cohesive piece of music that could be played from start to finish” with an “eager focus on harmony and instrumentation” and he delivers just that. The tone of the album is consistent throughout with tracks driven by guitar, bass and drums. Layered-on vocals and keyboards give a thick, dreamy soundscape. He uses different effects (especially on the electric guitars) to vary the texture as he develops the musical themes.
Songs tend to have a few different sections and reflect a variety of influences. There are Latin guitars and rhythms, Beatles-y organs and pianos, and an old-school ‘80s square-wave synth sounds throughout. Slumbernaut’s talent lies in pulling all of these together into a whole that makes sense. Further, he keeps the arrangements tight: even with multiple sections to a composition, he thankfully resists the urge to prattle.
The first of the seven tracks, “Solis” fits the blueprint above. An a cappella start moves into an upbeat, poppy rock song and a Latin-themed, acoustic guitar-driven coda. The guitar ending of “Solis” connects directly to the start of the next track “Taste of Spring”. It’s an upbeat pop number that opens a window into the Welsh countryside: the track finishes with bird noises and a classically-styled upright piano etude. The birds give way to crazy chatter at the start of “Luna” as Slumbenaut asks us, “what seems to be the problem?” over a guiro and cool Latin rhythms. The soaring vocals are a particular highlight here.
My two favorite tracks are “Learning to Fall” and “Stellae.” “Learning to Fall” starts as an airy track with piano, plucked guitar and layered vocals just washing over your ears. It builds in intensity with well-effected guitars picking up earlier themes. “Stellae” is Slumbernaut’s take on a lilt: upbeat with the expected layered harmonies and airy textures.
Phases is an enjoyable spin. As he says on “Stellae”--“catch these notes and swallow.”
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