ESP Summer: Here + 天国の王国 (Onkonomiyaki, 2020)

October 8, 2020 at 7:06 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

ESP Summer: Here

ESP Summer (or E.S.P. Neighborhood, or ESP Continent) is Pale Saints’ Ian Masters and His Name Is Alive’s Warren Defever. The two released a 1995 album which remains well-regarded among dream pop aficionados, a more abstract 10″ EP (which I prefer to the album), and a 1997 7″ EP, and eventually a digital complete discography in 2009. They’ve continued to collaborate remotely (Masters lives in Japan, Defever is a Detroit-area native), and they’ve entirely unexpectedly released two recordings on Bandcamp so far this year. Here is a 4-track EP which is far more dream than pop. Gentle acoustic guitar melodies are threaded throughout, but the tracks make heavy usage of field recordings and strange textures. “Guitar & Mirage” is a bit closer to the noisier moments of HNIA’s Return to Never, but blasted wide open. “Water & Piano & Birds” has all of those things, but there’s also a barely audible phone message which may or may not date from HNIA’s 4AD days.

ESP Summer: 天国の王国

天国の王国 (or Kingdom of Heaven) is more song-based, starting out with Masters drowsily sighing “the kingdom of heaven is within you” while being serenaded by a Cocteau-school drum machine waltz and blankets of guitar effects. “熊虫” alternates between fuzzy dripping, ethereal piano vapor, and (for a brief moment) more of an aggressive stomp, with Defever’s guitars having the same type of raw bite that they did back on Livonia. “宇宙” revisits the lyrical theme of the first track, but surrounds it with a panorama of flutes, knocky percussion, and spindling guitars, then douses it with some frosty feedback. Then it turns into a nostalgic ballroom dream montage, and eventually the windswept guitar comes drifting back in, elevating it all into something dramatic and mournful. Masters delivers his mystic message one final time on the last track, starting out with clear vocals and trippy guitars before drifting to a reserved coda.

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