Album Review: Simean Mobile Disco’s “Whorl”

A spin on the concept of disco notably more compelling in its subtlety than the accordingly named band’s previous work, Whorl is a charming venture through eerie octaves that doesn’t quite sound like it was recorded under an open sky in the middle of nowhere. The thing is, it was. Though the instrumentation it encaptures may be blatantly electronic, its assemblance was as organic as it gets- the album approached its final form in the deserts of Southern California. Computers were left behind in lieu of a couple of sequencers and a set of synth gear, just under a thousand silent fans were gathered, and a suitable outcropping of orange rock was selected with care. In every way, Whorl is a product of atmosphere.

The consequential sound is decorated by an echoey ambiance, leisurely transitions, and an overall lack of clarity that successfully lures the listener into tones that fight their own redundancy with variations that almost sound stirred by passing winds. It could be labelled as boring if it wasn’t so deviously unpredictable, or considered understated if its mesmerising nature wasn’t in the subdued aura it thrives on. When acknowledged as more than the sum of its parts, however, Whorl is, above all else, dreamy.

Considering the catchy and often electric melodies that this band has come up with in the past such as within the most recent and comparatively intense record Unpatterns, Whorl can easily be mocked for its modest deliverance and lack of climax. Comparing the opener “Redshift” to the two-year old “I Waited for You” is like comparing a stage-whisper to a scream- and it would be generous to say that the new album picks up force as things progress. The nostalgia of “Sun Dogs” makes old hits like “Cerulean” sound practically futuristic, and the spectral vibe that carries through the entire work may camouflage tracks into each other so that they are essentially indistinguishable without close attention.

That is, in a way, the beauty of it. In its consistency it becomes one elongated song, a wordless fable that never finds much action, only because it is so busy finding peace within its effortless flavour. If you want to dim the lights and send a spastic dance party spiralling into action, Whorl is more than likely to let you down. Nonetheless, if motionless stargazing against an auditory backdrop of church bells and hymns of unidentifiable airborne creatures is more your cup of tea, be sure to check it out- it may very well be the soundtrack you’ve been looking for.

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