Vondelpark – Seabed (R&S)
April 22, 2013 by Gaspar Castro
Better late than never. The London trio that has threatened to blow fresh air into an increasingly uniform electronica scene since 2010 finally released their debut album, Seabed.
Named after the largest public park in Amsterdam, it’s easy to imagine Lewis Rainsbury and co. lazing around on the green grass with acoustic guitars, a notepad and the easily accessible narcotics of the Dutch capital. Not judging.
Seabed’s “Radiohead quietstorm” sounds fresh straight away, but ultimately suffers from the same disease that often hurts their peer slow jam bands: repetitiveness. The band seems happy not to break the chains of soul-inspired indie pop for the sake of immersive ambience, but that aim often comes across as laziness.
This is music to relax to on a sunny afternoon. It is a notch above the chill-out music you find in therapeutic YouTube videos featuring waterfalls and bird songs, but the crossover to indie pop that people like James Blake and Neon Indian have achieved is practically non-existent.
A fortunate exception is California Analog Dream, the 2010 well structure pop tune that efficiently makes you escape the English cold to the bright American West Coast through catchy guitar riffs and free-flowing drums. This is one of the few strong standalone tracks in Seabed, and it’s a shame that the rest of the album seems to drag on a bit after that.
Quest is an efficient introduction to the mood Rainsbury wants to impose: somewhat repetitive guitars aim to hypnotize and, for the most part, deliver. Soft vocals and falsettos that sometimes resemble Bon Iver’s are just another instrument in between the layers of melodic guitars.
The second track, Blue Again, is bound to unnerve Mac users: what sounds too much like the default alert sound for Apple computers marks the rhythm for most of the 5 minutes. I for one had to flick through my applications to make sure my laptop wasn’t crashing.
Seabed’s eponymous track is little more than relaxing. It may help sufferers of insomnia, but it’s unlikely you’ll remember the notes come the morning.
Praise is due to the Londoners for doing their best to build a characteristic sound among the sea of predictable synths that often swarms the British electronica scene. But while Seabed is easy to enjoy and relax to on your own, this lazy James Blake album doesn’t break as much new ground as Vondelpark’s potential said it would.