Review Summary: she sways over to me ~ she's still going on, but i can't hear anything
Originally released on 10” vinyl for Record Store Day in 2011, Seasick
is a trio of unreleased tunes left over from recording sessions for the LA foursome’s second LP, Swoon
(2009). While this may sound off-putting, after one listen it becomes clear their omission had nothing to do with quality and everything to do with aesthetics. Swoon
was a tightly framed, sharply focused record - hooks and melodies held up by walls of guitar fuzz - and for the most part Seasick
needs room to stretch its legs, reveal itself slowly… room to breathe
. This premise is exemplified by the twisting, turning title track, an elegant slow-burner which pushes the seven minute mark while somehow feeling both endless and concise. The understated, delay-soaked closer ‘Ribbons and Detours’ continues in this vein, this time with bassist Nikki Monninger behind the vocal mike. Her voice is a perfect fit here: though not dissimilar to Brian Aubert’s, her soothing tones bring a gentler vibe absent from the latter’s frantic whispers and breathy snarls. Vocals aside, Seasick
’s real MVP is keyboardist/knob-twiddler Joe Lester. Rarely, if ever, stepping into the spotlight, he’s there in the back painting with fine strokes, filling in gaps, weaving and conjuring and creating a beautifully bleak, soft-edged atmosphere in which these two songs thrive. In contrast, sandwiched between the two is the very Swoon
-esque ‘Broken Bottles’, a track which jams harder than every single song on that record bar ‘Panic Switch’. Despite veering a little too far into SSPU-by-the-numbers territory (fuzz on fuzz), the ripping instrumental break/solo more than justifies its inclusion here.
With the clarity of hindsight, Seasick
is the obvious tether linking the balls-out immediacy of Swoon
to the calculated, spacious Neck of the Woods
. It has all of the former’s first-listen accessibility but like the latter plays hard to get with its layers, only revealing all of itself after multiple return visits. This shouldn’t be a deterrent: the payoff is well worth the investment, particularly with the outstanding title track. It may be slim pickings for the fuzz rockers and shoegazers and pumpkin smashers among you, but aficionados of SSPU’s more restrained side would be foolish to pass this one up.