I think it’s really neat to have musicians talk about the music of their peers. So to follow the trend we started some weeks ago, we now have another guest reviewer, in the form of David Dhonau, airing his lofty views on an album that has featured on this site – ‘The Glow’, by Gold Celeste.
David Dhonau is a bassist, cellist, composer and producer based in the UK. His work has ranged from ambient electronica to fuzzy alt rock, contemporary classical to improvised noise. As a composer, arranger and session player his work has been favourably reviewed in NME, The Wire, Uncut, Muzik and the Sun.
Live performances have taken him to Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House and festivals such as Tramlines and Summer Sundae. He has had recorded work featured on television programmes such as BBC3’s ‘Ideal’ and Channel 4’s ‘Hollyoaks’. David currently plays in Leicester based dream-pop band Dayflower and is a founding member of experimental rap collective 1,000,000,000,000 o’clock.
David Dhonau reviews ‘The Glow’, Gold Celeste.
Conjuring thoughts of something shining, chiming, transcendent and precious, Gold Celeste is a band name as evocative as it is beautiful. It came from a simple appreciation of the sky, saturated with colour during sunrise or sunset. The Glow is the debut album from this Norwegian dream-psych trio: an equally appropriate title for a record that exudes warm, luxuriant, brilliance from start to finish.
It begins with a collage of reversed voices, odd tape effects and swooning strings (found, one might imagine, on a dusty, worn film reel); a mini overture which builds and swells until a clattering drum fill shatters the reverie and ‘Can Of Worms’ opens properly. Suddenly we are in the midst of a legion of multi-tracked voices, repeating a world weary mantra: ‘They said it would be good for you’. These fall away to leave a wistful lead vocal alone against a backdrop of meandering chords and ambient textures: elements which form a blueprint for much of what will follow.
After a few false starts with outside producers, the band chose to handle production themselves. Not surprising for a group of friends who first bonded over a shared love of Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine, bands known for their attention to studio craft. (Gold Celeste covered the former’s ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ at their debut London show recently, apparently to great effect.) It was clearly the right decision – they have meticulously sculpted a record which is a truly gorgeous listen.
There are no hard edges on ‘The Glow’. Multi-instrumentalist Eirik Fidjeland lays down drifts of guitars and washed out keyboards that meld and merge, sometimes barely distinguishable from one another. Cinematic strings seep into tape echo, enveloping the listener in a warm, analogue embrace. Effects are applied with painstaking care, never muddy or vague. The whole sound scintillates like sunlight reflected in clear, rippling water.
While the high end floats with diaphanous lightness, a solid anchor is provided by the masterful rhythm section of Petter Haugen Andersen (drums) and Simen Hallset (bass, keys, lead vocal). Swaggering tom fills and deft snare flourishes interweave with melodic bass, summoning memories of Paul McCartney and Ringo at their peak. No coincidence that the somnambulant organ stabs at the heart of ‘The Dreamers’ make it feel like Strawberry Fields Forever’s comedown.
Each instrumental part is played beautifully, making the intricate seem effortless. Shrewd arrangements draw an orchestral hugeness from the band, heightened by additional instrumentation and nuanced, abstract noise: it’s Burt Bacharach and Brian Wilson exploring the surface of another planet.
While these ‘golden age’ influences loom large, The Glow also resonates with a more contemporary avant pop tone. ‘Open Your Eyes’ is a near perfect gem of a song (a clear highlight on a consistently strong album), relying on woozy synths and a syncopated breakbeat, which call to mind Tame Impala or MGMT as recorded by American neo-psych production maestro Dave Fridmann.
Hallset’s top-of-the-range vocal strongly recalls the fey, quavering delivery of Jonathan Donahue, Fridmann’s bandmate from his days as bassist in Mercury Rev: a group famed for its reckless experimentalism and symphonic grandeur. But whilst Donahue and Co’s latest offering,’The Light In You’, fell somewhat flat (at least in part due to Fridmann’s absence as producer) ‘The Glow’ succeeds in the same way as Mercury Rev’s finest work – synthesising a varied palette of sonic influences and weaving them into a lush, timeless landscape, uniquely and on its own terms.
It may not contain anything as obviously anthemic as ‘Goddess On A Hiway’ or as unhinged as ‘Chasing A Bee’, but ‘The Glow’ is a sonic trip of remarkable depth, imagination and beauty. It’s an LP which unfolds more richly with each listen and is designed to be experienced as a whole, joyfully rubbishing any notion of The Album being a outmoded concept. Gold Celeste are revelling in the format, down to the carefully paced track order.
The longish opening track is followed by ‘But a Poem’: a succinct ditty based around acoustic guitar and vocal. Tantalisingly brief instrumental interludes fade out when they’ve barely begun. Subtle shifts in key and tonality lends the music a weightless dream logic. When Gold Celeste open a door in front of you, expect to float out through the window instead. As Revolver did with Tomorrow Never Knows, the song cycle ends with a beginning, and a dramatic one. ‘The Start of Something Beautiful’ is propelled by an urgent beat as chords climb restlessly, beckoning the hopeful radiance of a new dawn.
‘The Glow’ is as ambitious lyrically as it is musically, addressing societal malaise, global progress and personal, spiritual transformation. ‘Grand New Spin’ searches for ‘some kind of answer’ and longs for ‘a place where truth is not a sin’. Gold Celeste are treading in Lennon’s footsteps: dreaming with clear, open eyes, not to escape the world but rather to imagine a better one. As with the music, the earnestness with which such grand themes are presented is offset by an artful playfulness which banishes any sense of self indulgence.
A band after Gold Celeste’s heart must surely be those pioneering Oklahoman freaks, The Flaming Lips. Before their glorious ‘Do You Realize??’ rises to its final crescendo Wayne Coyne sings of how ‘the sun doesn’t go down. It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round’.
In offering up this exquisite album, three Nordic dreamers have done something sublime: a reminder that maybe the direction the sun is heading is less important than taking the time to enjoy its glow.
Gold Celeste’s latest single, ‘The Wonder of Love’ is available here
Listen to Dayflower’s Fresh on the Net favourited track, ‘Heart Shaped Tambourines’ here –