Trapdoor is a recording project that emerges out of the dorms and bedrooms of New York, creating a carefully constructed and contemplative indie rock style that seeks to explore new sounds and emotions. Trapdoor’s debut album Abstractions was almost entirely recorded in the artist’s bedroom using Logic, while playing a Fender electric bass, Midi keyboard, and a semi-acoustic ukulele. Due to the guitar tones being recorded using a ukulele, the songs have a unique tone that adds an extra layer of abstraction to an already psychedelic sound. Thematically, the album seeks to capture the abstracted sounds and feelings that marked a transitional period during the artist’s life. Growing into adulthood required a “coming to terms” moment that dealt with personal emotions and angst – music became an outlet to give a name to those formless emotions. The artist states that he tended to dwell on certain sounds just to see how far he could push them, where each song became a way to grow and to develop thoughts that were still forming. A love for psychedelic soundscapes and noise grew alongside Trapdoor’s songwriting abilities, and this album reflects that.
The album’s opener “You Will Never Know” suggests that the cosmos is beyond human comprehension, but that at the same time there can be this “intimacy with the mystery” that is all around us – we just must “learn to love or rot away.” I liked the line “the concrete of your mind where lilacs bloomed” – an interesting visual. As far as style, you could say it’s synthpop, without being traditionally synthpop, added with other ethereal soundscape elements – a pretty cool mix.
Next up is “The Mirror” and it starts off with a warm, muted bass, bright melodic guitar, or the ukulele (?) and a trippy style overall. Parts of this one was dark in nature, perhaps a bit goth. “You Made My Bad Decisions for Me” begins with some piano, an echoing guitar/ukulele sound and a melodious bass. The singing gets trippy, edging on someone going mad or at least having some sort of nervous breakdown. I thought this number had a tenderness about it and reminded me of the later work of R.E.M., like off Around the Sun. On “Falling Stars,” Trapdoor tells the story of a girl who is “patiently waiting for the stars to fall again” and “waiting for the world to end.” The bass takes on the brunt of the rhythm and melody here, while the guitar drones loudly and a saxophone comes in-between the verses with a solo effort at the end.
“Ms. Flowers” has a trippy, shoegaze quality about it with muffled singing and the instruments taking more center stage. There’s also a creepiness vibe I felt, but a likable one – maybe it was the lyrics. Overall, I thought this album flowed well from start to finish. “Cacophony” has nice rhyming on some of its words. The main instruments here are keys and drums. The effects pedal, or whatever was used on the ukulele, was quite good and it had a nice contrast to the smooth sounding bass tones. I thought it really defined what the word cacophony meant. Moving on to “No Longer Strangers” you’ll hear plenty of classic and new wave like synth, via the Midi keyboard and a wild drum beat. This one is lively and has an interesting arrangement of sounds. The story behind this tune goes out to a “Theo” and suggests two people coming together – “fade into blue, I fade into you / we are no longer strangers.” The last track “Something Pleasant” offers no singing, just an instrumental. It features mostly keys/piano and a solid drum beat. There are also some cool effects that add to the song’s melody. I really liked this last one and thought it added a greater dynamic to the album’s mix.
Altogether, Abstractions by Trapdoor has a unique approach to songwriting and mixes instruments in entertaining ways.
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