Christopher Willits Surf Boundaries

[Ghostly International; 2006]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: Glitch, Electronica, Electro-Acoustic, Melancholic Pop, Experimental
Others: Manual, Fennesz, Broken Social Scene, Landing, HiM, Juana Molina

In the growing trend of sound painters making pop statements with anti-song structures, I've finally bumped up against one that doesn't feel quite so miraculous. This is basically passable pastoral glitch pop. The album's not without its particular intricacies, but things remain rather uniform with that fuzzy, gurgling M83 hymnbook mood. Like with a Manual album, you start to feel the warm goodbye you're having give way to cold piss.

It's not that way all the time, to be fair. Some of us are inexplicably drawn to music that feels like turning away. Everyone wants to do that all of the time. But for those of us who make a habit of it, we've got maudlin music like this to make our instantaneous self-preservation instincts feel like home. Some of the best music of this year is for the incubator. But Surf Boundaries doesn't quite cut it, and I'll try and tell you why.

As bliss-outs go, this LP is steadfastly marginal. It sounds to me like something a heady intellectual sound collagist would whip up in an afternoon to prove to himself he could do pop if he wanted to. The result may impress, relatively speaking, but is it anything truly notable? The last song is pretty and would be nice in a different context (say, a You Forgot It In People outtake), but here is just like dumping ether on the ether. While the micro-brain rub of "Saturn" breaks the saccharine sunset stolidness of the preceding six tracks, it's really just less interesting Tim Hecker. Then there's the rhythmically bombastic Stereolab/Tortoise-like "Yellow Spring." It's a change, but the template is still somewhat uninviting, despite its rich bevy of sonic details.

As a fan of the genre, I'm glad the shoegaze sound is still around, but what Willits is doing with it here is somewhat restrictive and wallpapery. This is cool posh art gallery background music, but there is something decidely flat about it up close. It says something that the more synthetically arranged music of M83 carries more emotional weight than something more acoustic. But all reservations aside, I can hardly call this thing bad. Forgettable? Maybe. But it's still quite a sumptuous box of marzipan.

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