Local post-electronic musician Snayl is an artist who deviates from the norm by default. His previous record, Dreaming of Ghosts, was a concept EP that centered upon the afterlife. Essentially an out of body journey into the world of the spirit, Dreaming of Ghosts, was an attempt to put the afterlife into a tangible musical form. In his new untitled EP Snayl probes deeper into his musical stylings and finds a somewhat darker experience.
Though Snayl’s new musical stylings are very much an evolution, it’s easy to see how this album is rooted in the same songwriting approach as Dreaming of Ghosts. The new material continually develops throughout each piece, which was and continues to be one of the defining characteristics that draws me to Snayl’s brand of “post-electronica”. Each song ends somewhere different than where it started, while traveling several places in between.
The introductory track, "Broken Clouds," makes this intention clear from the start. Beginning with a synth sound reminiscent of a digitized didgeridoo, it quickly enters a groovy segment which blends tribal drums, melodic guitar, and the “digi-didgeridoo” synth. However, the song doesn’t take long to change gears to something a little less easily defined. Moving towards atmospheric and then more disparate, it changes several times in a steadily shifting progression. But even this method of changing elements never truly loses cohesion. While the song changes dramatically over the course of several minutes, it somehow does feel like the same song.
Photo by Tom Chandler of Odd World Photography
While this second EP doesn’t focus on a specific context as its predecessor did, it does include more use of disparate and clashing elements, combining them into a greater whole. Utilizing pitch-bending effect, off key tones, and samples best described as bizarre and eerie in some cases, Snayl manages to create both cohesive and yet divergent soundscapes in this new record. The final track "From the Tundra!" even ends with an almost maniacal effect, as the track staggers from a more cohesive passage into raving, pitch-shifted laughter.
Snayl manages to make use of these discordant elements sporadically enough to draw listeners in. I found myself trying to comprehend the greater structure amidst off kilter effects before a song would then often develop into a more clear and tonal structure. "Neon Dead" provides a good example of this as it begins with an antagonistic sound effect similar to crawling insects which is then overpowered by a more stable and tenacious guitar and percussion riff.
When asked about this album’s new elements, Austin Duncan (a.k.a. Snayl) said, “I was trying to continue the expansion of what Snayl sounds like, and my own musical abilities…While still dreamy, I feel like it's a step in a new direction. I don't ever want to stop going in new directions with my music, experimentation, new influences, and new sounds...I don't like to stay in the same exact box for each song that is written. It's gotta find itself.” This new EP features some additions from Clayton Deering (The Fights) and Kelsey Sharp, who are both members of the Snayl live band. Other than them, this is an entirely solo driven effort by Austin himself, covering guitars, synth, samplings, bass, keys, and a few vocal elements in addition to all of the production and recording elements. Given the complexity of the album, that’s certainly no easy feat.
While definitely an evolution of Snayl’s first album, the darker and more anxious elements combined with Snayl’s focus upon intricate songwriting make this new EP stand apart from Dreaming of Ghosts. Duncan is clearly looking to expand their horizons and incorporate more components into the recipe that makes up Snayl. If you’re looking for something groovy and weird yet complex and alluring, I’d recommend this album any day.
The new Snayl EP is available today online via Bandcamp. According to Austin, a second album in the works will feature several more local artists, including T.R.U.T.H., KVMPAIGN, Evan Opitz, and, of course, the Snayl live band. Duncan mentions that this album will be a step in a jazzier direction and that he’s very excited to see what comes out of it.