Graded on a Curve:
Static Daydream,
Static Daydream

Those nutty over shoegaze may know Paul Baker from Skywave and Ceremony. Since 2012 he’s been busy in Static Daydream, a project finding him in cahoots with girlfriend and musical collaborator Jamie Casey. Their 4-song cassette “The Only One” was issued last year and now here’s a self-titled LP; like Baker’s previous outfits Static Daydream is disinclined toward untapped aural horizons, instead striving to invigorate long-ensconced ideas. Limited edition vinyl in an edition of 150 in black and 100 in “Orange Crush with Black Haze” is out through Saint Marie and Moon Sounds Records.

Akin to Static Daydream, Skywave was based in Fredericksburg, VA. A trio composed of Baker on guitar, Oliver Ackerman on bass, and John Fedowitz on drums, their geographical circumstance has been suggested as a disadvantage, Skywave apparently plagued with audience neglect while extant. Beginning in 1998 they released four full-lengths and a few singles and EPs, the group going out on a qualitative high-note early in ’04 with Synthstatic.

Post-breakup Ackerman moved to Brooklyn and formed the considerably higher-profile A Place to Bury Strangers; he’s also notable for effects pedal company/defunct warehouse space Death By Audio. Baker and Fedowitz remained homebodies and worked together as Ceremony, the pair issuing three albums and a bunch of short-players prior to Baker’s exit and the subsequent formation of Static Daydream.

If Skywave’s existence was basically unimaginable without the precedent established by My Bloody Valentine and likeminded acts of their era, the same can be said for Ceremony, though the choice of moniker might tip-off the reader to Baker and Fedowitz’s interest in the adjustment period betwixt Joy Division and New Order. Utilizing programmed beats and a familiar vocal inflection infused with waves of distortion, Ceremony initially resonated like the Brothers Reid ambushing A Factory Record.

As the music emerged, Ceremony’s intersection of danceable structures and amp-racket did grow somewhat less specific, but it was never difficult to grasp the source of their sound. To some extent this is also true for Static Daydream as Baker and Casey make immediate alterations in the direction of melodicism.

With its inter-gender harmonies and brightly hued forward motion, Static Daydream’s opener leans closer to indie pop than shoegaze. Baker hasn’t misplaced his guitar, but his raw-edged playing follows a direct course of action and balances out the sweetness of the vocals and keyboards; “More than Today” is a tad reminiscent of early Magnetic Fields on a Ramones kick.

Saint Marie’s press blurb mentions the impact on Static Daydream from both ‘80s and ‘90s UK noise-pop and ‘60s girl groups. Given these tidbits of info the title of “Nowhere to Hide” could possibly bring a certain tune by Martha and the Vandellas to mind, but the number is actually suffused in the more recent of the two cited influences, Baker taking on the mic duties alone as he bears down on the strings and pedals.

While I’m not conversant with the entirety of Baker’s work in Skywave and Ceremony, I’ve frankly not heard him this on top of his inspirations. And much of the increased panache is related to songwriting, this effort collecting a batch of worthy material. He’s still not breaking any new ground, but neither is Static Daydream’s genre merger idling in the stylistic shadow of other units.

Yes, the opening rhythm of “Run into the Night” does recall the gyration inspiring sensibility of Ceremony, but the track quickly settles into a dream pop groove, the very subtle mingling of voices only a portion of the piece’s overall layering as Baker’s axe cultivates the vibrant middle turf between catchiness and abrasion. A long fadeout ices the cake.

Smart production flourishes help to solidify Static Daydream’s focus. Issued in 2014 as a digital single, the mildly underwater guitar tones and slightly submerged throatiness of “Blue Tambourine Girl” conjure a highly caffeinated drum-box wielding Psychedelic Furs had they arrived circa 1989 via the Creation label.

“Just Stay” takes a significant turn into pop territory and distinctively an early ‘90s alt neighborhood; it’s a facet exhibited on the Casey-sung “Disbelief” from their tape debut, and to Static Daydream’s credit the unflagging drum pattern and studio enhancements herein avoid faltering into a trip-hoppy neo-psych quagmire. As the cut progresses, electricity asserts itself amongst vocal mannerisms of a decidedly Brit persuasion.

Bursting out of the gate is “Until You’re Mine”; what at first is defined by an icy, echo-laden post-punk urgency is again deftly interjected with a melodic undercurrent, and all this before the situation redirects into a slower instrumental passage offering elements of techno-pop and an atmosphere of guitar-drift evoking The Cure’s prime stuff.

Static Daydream’s tendency to stretch out keeps tabs on those shoegaze roots, though the catchy “Another Rainy Night without You” sustains a tidy length. “When I Turn Around You’re Gone” is just as upbeat through roughly the same duration, but a la “Until You’re Mine” (and maybe the most succinct praise I can bestow here is the set’s transcendence over a handful of clichéd song titles), it detours into a down-tempo setting edging even nearer to the aforementioned alt/trip-hop scenario.

That it persists in sidestepping triteness and insubstantiality is nothing short of miraculous. Nabbed from the EP, “The Only One” sees them (assisted on the album by Jake Reid of Screen Vinyl Image and Ice Station Mastering) wisely plunging back into the dream pop-footwear comfort zone; commencing with an energetic rhythmic gallop, another well-crafted melody is boosted by the disc’s most piercing spurts of amplifier goo and a voice sounding as if it emanates from inside an empty cauldron.

“When She Falls” investigates a comparable sonic trajectory to productive result while “I’ve Destroyed Everything” examines a riffy motif to deliver the record its hardest rocking (if not its noisiest) selection at the finale. On the whole these 11 tracks expand quite well upon the potential offered on their earlier outing and bode promisingly for additional installments.

Static Daydream isn’t the project to convert those indifferent to shoegaze, noise-pop, and ‘80s/’90s alt-indie revamps in general, but lobes thirsting for this sorta thing should get a temporary quenching. Furthermore, the LP is steeped in contempo vibrancy likely to please folks too young to have experienced the epoch that shaped it.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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