Believe it or not, this is the feeling of the new album on Goner Records by local punk ravers Aquarian Blood. In more mundane terms, one might call it the perfect hangover record, but it aims deeper and wider than that, and it delivers. Say you've just been dealt a cold hand by a thoughtless lover, or by death itself. You sit on the couch after a hard night of pounding your head against the wall. A friend, trying to help, puts on this record. And from the first quiet guitar notes, you breathe a sigh of relief: Is this vintage Segovia? Or wait, early Donovan? Then the voices enter, and you know it's neither. Oh, sweet surcease of sorrow! This is sung by someone who's been where you are.
- Aquarian Blood in thrashier times
As with every track here, the dark observations and wry commentary are surrounded with unassuming acoustic ostinatos, (mostly) subtle keyboard textures, and inventive bass counterpoints. Drums only appear here and there, in sparse touches, as in "No Place I Know," with hypnotic folk patterns belying lyrics of desperation, all glued together with distant marching rhythms.
Even as the kitchen-sink approach embraces drum machines or a touch of a rocking guitar solo, they're all in small measure. An anything-goes spirit prevails; the proceedings have the sound of the most quietly atmospheric home demos ever made. And indeed, that's essentially what these recordings are, having arisen when full-band drummer Bill Curry was temporarily out of commission due to a broken arm, A scaled down version of the band began playing out in February 2018, and this collection was the result.
While the imagery and settings of these songs are too subtle to reduce to simple doom-mongering, there is a dark undercurrent throughout that's undeniable. Touches of synthesizer or even (apparently) firecrackers never let your ears grow too complacent. But even in the darkest moments, that sense of hard-won epiphanies, in quiet post-recovery moments, is never absent.
"Everything he ever told you was a lie to lead you on..til the day that he was caught," they sing in "Their Dream." But, since this is neither Kansas nor Oz, and we're not Dorothy, awaking from such a nightmare can't mean it never happened. "It was more than a dream that you could just wish away," goes the chorus. It's the sound of grim – yet liberating – realizations.