It’s been a while since the guitar has made me feel something. At all. Or really, in this case, I suppose the guitar is just an accompaniment, figures among other figures. White Poppy’s self-titled debut album is a seemingly innocuous rush, a series of series of subliminal momentums rapidly and hazily oscillating between present and future. Each track is a beautiful, fevered kiss and release, wrapping around the listener with each new tonal, melodic entrance. This has all been done before, and it has all been loved before; but oddly, what makes this album so precious is its personality and willingness to throw itself forward.
Hypnagogic, 4AD dream-pop like this has existed in many capacities for decades now, but this release is the first in a long time to grasp so easily the essence of the genre. The guitar is a discretely polite whip, entangling in “Wear Me Away’s” vaporous sighs of vocals. It’s as though her experiences are outliving her, the experience overcoming the self. Out of the mixture of codified forms — the voice, the guitar, the girl-pop generic model — White Poppy (Crystal Dorval) emerges above it all with a sense of purpose. She intends to chronicle those experiential modes, applying them to the speed in which she experiences them — and in this sense, this is very Krautrock, very Faust-esque. Latent melodies and counter-melodies collide with the historicizing feedback loops, employing cascading drones that create a palette we can only describe as yesteryear. In this work, yesteryear, nostalgia as a form, is a model, an illusion, a point of obscuration. Candy-coated vocals fold into nullified versions of themselves; they are only impressions of what used to be and strangely what may still be there.
In my mind, for the guitar, there is no coming back from albums like Loveless and Endless Summer, in which the former pushed the guitar to a physical, existential end — an immutable fuzz — while the latter distilled it down to discrete particulars of its own form — (de)territorialization. White Poppy, in the stylings of Not Not Fun cohorts High Wolf and Pocahaunted, managed to use the pieces as a mechanism or a personal theme. And even still, similar things were alluded to on Julia Holter’s Loud City Song. These artist seem to push the aesthetic experience of instrumentation to extract its meaning, knowing that there is no use for physical binding tools. How do you historicize a relic? You drown it in reverb, and you watch its physical form blur and mesh.
Crystal Dorval has been known to refer to her music as therapeutic pop — pop that doesn’t assault the ears, but pop that soothes it. Looping and layering textures, Crystal establishes a scene; one could assume it is a pleasant one: running through fields, a setting sun, etc. The scene over the course of each song stretches to the point that it overlaps, and this is where she wants you: at a point where you are reaching for the beginning. When this happens, the music/scene washes over you, and you are entranced and carried into a blissful state.
The perpetuation of nostalgic states is quite different from the masturbation of it: Crystal Dorval wants not to refer to those pleasant states, but to be the pleasant state reborn. And with self-aware tracks (and titles) like “Emotional Intelligence,” Crystal is well on her way, combining lazy drones with sunbathed tones and angular harmonic developments. White Poppy is a peaceful place, not the simulation of it.