Candy Claws, “In The Dream Of Sea Life”, (2009)

I’m currently typing this at quarter to seven in the morning, waiting for a train. This is the earliest I’ve been up (and active) in a few months, at the very least. I also didn’t get to sleep until 1, and I woke up for an hour at 4, so I’m flying by the seat of my pants and likely to crash and die in a dramatic fashion.

I am, however, listening to the album “In The Dream of Sea Life” by the noise pop/shoegaze band Candy Claws, and boy is it doing the same job as three espressos without the horrible sense of deflation around 4PM. I can’t think of an album more individually tailored to my tastes. On the first track alone you’ve got a slow-build, like a diver emerging from underwater, before partition walls of joyous noise burst through, then dissipate, then burst through again. Vocalist Ryan Hover is more of an accompaniment to the instrumentation, although his wistful tone and audible repetition of the song’s title, “Diving Knife”, evokes cutting someone free from rigging and saving them from drowning.

Subsequent songs work through a heady mixture of pure pop melody, folk chords turning inside out like psychedelic bubbles rising to the surface of a bathtub (or the knotted bark of a tree), acoustic stomps mixed with deep electronic tones, abrasion coloured pink. This is an album content to start on one path, take a left-turn into a digression, and call that the rest of the song. It’s alive with the whims of its two creators, Hover and Kay Bertholf, and yet it maintains a tight control throughout. It’s impossible to guess where it’s going (even after repeated listens), and then when you’ve got a handle on some kind of structure or movement, it slips away from you again.

Some of the chords (such as on Catamaran) recall early Animal Collective (this would make a great, skyward facing deep-sea-blue joyful companion to the earthy, anxious ochres of their “Here Comes The Indian”). The whole album feels liberated and unbridled, and the central refrains of most of the tracks evoke freedom and the dissolution of boundaries, the disintegration of fears and worries. It’s also so obviously in love with nature and the patterns of ocean life that it makes you want to dig up Jacques Cousteau’s corpse and take it to the Bahamas.

It is, ultimately, endlessly evocative of so many different things. It recalls the first warm day of the year, the smell of dew making way for the sun, the weird chalky feeling in your hair after swimming in the ocean, an afternoon spent reading your favourite tattered paperback at the beach, occasionally looking out at skies and seas so blue, deep lingering magnetic mercurial blues, so magnificent and awe-inspiring that the longer you look, the less certain you are where one ends and the other begins, not that it matters anyway.

(It’s twenty past seven now. I’m on the train. I hope I’ve done this album justice.)

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