Sometimes genres die too quickly, leaving their fans stranded. After a deluge of releases in a short period of time, the flow slows to a trickle. (When’s the last time you heard a great new new wave song?) Once in a blue moon, we hear an example of where these genres might have headed, had they kept going at full steam. Sunset in the Deep End provides this pleasure, as Long Beach (CA)’s Yppah (Jose Luis Corrales Jr.) embraces two of these genres: shoegaze and trip hop. The press release is accurate; listeners may recall bands such as Cocteau Twins, Portishead and even The Cure. It’s a pleasant resurrection.
But lest one think this a pure throwback album, it also sounds contemporary. Informed by vibes both retro and modern, Sunset in the Deep End slots well with the New Alternative. The album’s is suffused with a sense of flow that conjures images of California ~ at least, the idealized California of endless summers and undulating waves. The music is relaxed yet somehow urgent, laid-back yet alive. “Light Cycle” is a perfect track for swaying, its vocal samples glittering like shards of light on the ocean. “Pieces” switches the fracture to the instruments, stuttering drum hits in imitation of both its title and the album’s art.
These pieces culminate in two above-ground tracks, which elevate the vocals from fragment to lyrical composition. Ali Coyle is the singer on each, although she’s not the only vocalist; Shaunna Heckman’s performance is understated, in the manner of Elizabeth Fraser, while Coyle’s tracks are forward enough to puncture the mainstream. The release of one of these as the lead single (“By Then It’ll Be Too Late”) produces a potential dilemma, ironically reflected in its title and the lyric, “there’s more to see.” Those who buy the album based on the single may be upset to discover the album is primarily instrumental, while those who prefer the instrumental (for example, us) may overlook the other tracks because we mistakenly assume they will all be vocal. We’re glad we gave it a shot, and hope that others will too.
In recent years, more artists (especially Odesza) have succeeded in the crossover market while rotating instrumental and vocal styles ~ many more than in 2015, when Yppah’s last album was released. While we’d love to see more people discover the appeal of instrumental music, we’d be even happier to hear a revival of trip hop and shoegaze. Can Sunset in the Deep End accomplish this? If so, we’ll welcome the hat trick. (Richard Allen)