Sciflyer: They Only Believe in the Moon (Clairecords, 2014)
Sciflyer’s They Only Believe in the Moon was a long-time coming. The prior EP, The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things, was released in 2005, making the wait for new Sciflyer about nine years. The album was supposed to be out much sooner, having finished the recordings around 2007 but personal issues and the recession of 2008 set back any attempt to release the album in a timely manner. Steve Kennedy (the heart and soul of Sciflyer), Kim Oberly, and Scott Eberhardt played on two thirds of the album while ASTRAL’s Scott Christy helped with the final third. They Only Believe in the Moon was also Sciflyer’s first time in a full 24-track studio as opposed to Kennedy’s penchant for his vintage 8-track machine. The quality of the recording really does show and it’s an impressive, cohesive album throughout.
“Creator” starts the album off with slow, fuzzed-out guitars that play a bar. The drums and bass enter and the tempo is a nice easy pace. This is a different sort of Sciflyer, laid back and in the pocket. The tones on the bass in this track are wonderfully deep and full while the guitars are swirly and mesmerizing. The drums play conductor as they lead the band through this almost nine-minute dreamy jam session. There are subtle changes to break up the hypnotic modes in the composition, like the introduction of cymbals rather than the tinny tapping of the high-hat. Kennedy’s vocals sit just under the surface of the sonic waves as guitars fuzz out and melodies are expressed through a guitar underplating with wah-wah. “Goddess”, perhaps the Creator’s consort, begins with staccato, dreamy guitar and almost a drum depicting a march. They both flow into a mid-tempo groove with floating guitars. Kennedy’s voice remains just out of reach, mysterious and ethereal. At about the 4:21 mark, there is a beautiful change in the overall feel of the track, with the fuzz becoming subtle and the guitars twisty and turning in a bright dance.
“Slowfire” makes another appearance here as a longer version of the song that appeared on Melt. It is slowed down in terms of the tempo, almost to a crawl. The notes stretch out, patient, ethereal, and inviting. The guitar slowly percolates in the speakers while the bass sparsely keeps the drums and guitars together. The drums seem to have a slight reverb on them, pensive and reserved. Kennedy almost whispers, inviting the listener into a contemplative space. “The Nation” also makes an appearance here as an extended song. It originally appeared on The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things. It’s also a slower version, but not as drastic as the change to “Slowfire”. However, this does fit the overall tone and tempo of the album in general. There is a laid-back groove going on here as the various guitar tones play around in the soundscapes. The bridge is slightly more aggressive and places this livelier moment during the composition. It’s a great reworking of the song and it’s especially nice to hear it recorded in a 24-track studio. Some of the brighter and deeper tones really shine in this new recording.
“So Close to Over” begins with spoken words and then moves into this circular phrasing on the guitar and bass. A slow, almost lethargic tempo begins as the drums and bass move forward as if through a viscous fluid. The vocals are deeper and ghost-like. Kennedy sings “this walk on the waters is testing my mettle/it looked good on paper/the temperature’s rising/the stars are exploding/the dreams turns to vapor/I tried on the armor/it weighed on my conscience and bested my patience”. This slow, slogging nature of the first part of the piece is heavily reflected in the lyrics. At about 4:08, the band comes out of the mire and a bright, upbeat tempo erupts out of the early effort. It’s as if the heavy burden has been lifted and the ability to move forward restored. “ZZYZX” is this wonderfully powerful instrumental track that evokes wide open California deserts. ZZYZX is a community in San Bernardino, California off interstate 15. The song is brisk, vibrant and has these almost surf-style rock moments but they are buried in heavy fuzz and riddled with dazzling guitar tones. The bass is driving and the drums energetic. It’s a wonderful finale to a cogent record.
They Only Believe in the Moon is a fantastic album but it’s also an incredible LP in Sciflyer’s catalog as a whole. From start to finish, the album is coherent, the compositions unique, and the overall quality of the recording top-notch. Kennedy and company have delivered a shoegaze masterpiece that should be highly recognized for its significance. When one hears a Sciflyer song, it sounds uniquely like them and They Only Believe in the Moon captures that unique sound so well. Whether you are a shoegaze fan or just a fan of music, pick this album up. You won’t be disappointed.
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