Review Summary: Finding beauty and warmth in only the darkest of places.
"An album created in the span of one sleepless night and the first recording I have ever shared with anybody else. The album is a fully electronic attempt at telling a story with just noises. I am semi-proud of this album and hopefully it leads to many more creations."
In July of 2013, an EP entitled Dreams of the Divine Machine
was released onto Bandcamp bearing only this mysterious description. Immediately, something about it intrigued me. Here was an album that was merely 14-minutes long, consisted of only five tracks, was recorded in one night, and yet somehow claims to tell a full-blown story that puts the listener into the shoes of the world’s first human-robot hybrid. The album’s sound is unlike any other, with each track swaying gently from dreamy ambient warmness to furious, industrial terror. It was as if in order to understand the album, one had to first understand the artist behind it. Enter Erik-Sheader Smith, perhaps the most humble mastermind the world of music has ever seen. Where Smith lacks in professional recording equipment, he makes up for by spilling his brains onto each second of every song he makes. Although he may not have known it himself as he was recording the album, Dreams of the Divine Machine
was far more than simply the product of sleep deprivation. Rather, it served as a quick, fourteen-minute glimpse into the twisted psyche of its fascinating creator. Needless to say, it piqued my interest, and with the promise of “more creations” to come, I couldn't begin to imagine where Smith was planning to go next. Two years later, in the shape of an EP entitled Your Body Lost Along the Shore
, I finally have my answer.
After listening to Dreams of the Divine Machine
, it’s not particularly difficult to imagine what Smith’s newest album sounds like. From its bizarre fusion of ambient and industrial music to its narrative-like flow, everything that made his first release so captivating is here and in no short supply. Only this time, Smith seems to have placed his focus on crafting emotional soundscapes with intricate structure rather than lulling the listener into a deep sleep with dreamy, ambient drones. Dreams of the Divine Machine
and Your Body Lost Along the Shore
are two sides of the same coin; one side painting a picture of Smith’s dreams, and the other diving directly into the very depths of his heart. It’s an emotional rollercoaster; a sincere, and yet deeply haunting aural representation of Smith’s day-to-days. As soon as the album begins, the listener takes on the role as Smith’s own two eyes, observing the dreary world he lives in with a sense of wonder. Although the album’s tone changes quite a bit, at no point does the world created throughout each track seem inconsistent or insincere.
Perhaps the most obvious change on Your Body Lost Along the Shore
from its predecessor is simply how organic-sounding it is. Although this change in direction could be seen as an example of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,
” the shift to a more organic sound allows for Smith to take a more personal approach to his songwriting. The title track, for example, consists of nothing more than quiet strumming, eerie synths, and a viola solo. Whereas previously the electronic buzzes and hums would have likely been the main focus of the song, here the viola takes center stage, with a gorgeous melody seemingly ripped from the bottom of someone’s tear-drenched heart. Still, no song strays further from Smith’s original formula than the closer, “Exit.” Beginning with twenty seconds of silence until being taken over by a forlorn guitar melody, “Exit” stands as Smith’s finest display of musicianship yet; with a Post-Rock-like sense of purpose and a hurricane of lo-fi fuzziness that grows increasingly loud as the track goes on. As a crushing drum beat brings the album to a close, one can almost feel themselves being lightly placed back into their own two shoes.
We may never truly know what’s going on inside the mind of Erik Sheader-Smith, but if I had to guess, I’d say Your Body Lost Along the Shore
comes pretty damn close. While admittedly not quite as intriguing its predecessor, the album continues to establish Smith’s legacy as a remarkable musician who finds beauty and warmth in only the darkest of places.