Smile Politely

Album Review: Gazelle, Sunblown

Gazelle is the new super group project between Jeff Dimpsey, a veteran of such legendary Champaign bands as Hum, Honcho Overload and Poster Children (just to name a few) and Adam Fein of Absinthe Blind, the dreamy neo-psychedelic precursor to Headlights. These 10 tracks find the duo ditching the volume of their electric guitars and experimenting with more electro-pop influences. I even dare to call this music post-electro-pop or tranquilized club because of the focus on beautifully textured atmospheres, scattered electronics, light acoustic guitar, keyboard, and vocals from both musicians like a gentle wind.

Opener “Jets” lives up to its name, fading in and building on a dull roar, plateauing with an ambient middle section, and then finally taking off, letting the drum machine really kick in, showing off influences of New Order and Thom Yorke that are spread all over the album.

Next, the album moves seamlessly into “Bridges,” a beautifully subdued sleeper that, halfway through, kicks into arguably the most danceable part of the album.

Guest vocals from Headlights’ Erin Fein fit perfectly on the ambient ballad “Phasedown” that blows up in the end with a burst of shining synths.

The shorter tracks (“Hey Home,” especially) do come and go without really developing their own presence, making them seem a little like filler. “Sonhead,” for example, is beautiful with its giant organ and slowly strummed acoustic guitar, but it just never turns into anything. The same could be said for “I’ll Be Late Again.” These shorter songs do have their moments (like the tolling of piano chords at the end of “I’ll Be Late Again”) but they are just too fleeting.

Otherwise, everything else is simply sublime. The shimmering centerpiece of the album, “Lineal,” is a seven-minute trance song that slowly melds into a hypnotic and layered drone for the last couple minutes. And Gazelle finishes the album loud and strong with “The First Rays,” the most distortion-laden song on the album that drops off into a peaceful piano closing.

Having heard a majority of the music both musicians have taken part of over the years, I have to say this release is my favorite from both parties. I hope they keep up the collaboration and continue to experiment and develop their sound.

Photo by Justine Bursoni

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