By Stef Siepel
September 26, 2013
The new album by Teen Daze is called Glacier, the first track is named ‘Alaska’, and somewhere in the tracklist you’ll also find ‘Tundra’, ‘Ice On The Windowsills’, and ‘Autumnal’, which can get pretty cold in the wrong months as well. So not surprisingly, at times the sounds on the album are “cold”. The album is filled with ambient music and delicately built soundscapes, contrasted with stronger moments – on one hand these rather icy, alienated sounds, and on the other those glimmers of humaneness. The latter is sometimes achieved via vocals, sometimes by simply kicking the song into life with an extra beat, and sometimes done through some other new sound that then pierces through that all-encompassing soundscape.
Opener ‘Alaska’, for instance, has both vocals and a beat that kicks it into motion halfway through. The second song, ‘Autumnal’, features more instruments that give it some warmth. Next to the electronics you can find more “traditional” elements, like a clear piano, a bass, and later on a beat comes in as well. Nearing the end it turns slightly more trippy and experimental, again causing a contrast with the first part of the song, which felt more organic and warm. The third song, ‘Ice on the Windowsill’, also works with this one main sound that seems to frame the start of the song, and through that framework everything else plays out, including the lyrics, which are about being inside with a loved one whilst looking out. Most of the time Teen Daze builds up that soundscape very well, using an all-encompassing sound through which the other sounds are heard, evoking a certain emotion or memory or whatever ambient tracks can evoke in one’s mind.
However, sometimes there is not only that kind of contrast, but also one in volume – or apparent volume at least. On the track ‘Tundra’ the idea is to have again that main framing sound, and even at the very beginning you can hear some sounds simmering at the bottom underneath. Later, experimental beats and other instruments can be heard as well. The thing here is, that main sound is so loud that it might startle you as it beams through your headset for the first time. It’s also pretty intrusive, causing the balance of what you hear to tilt into one direction. The transition to this more serene bit that evokes – to me – wonder, is beautiful, but it cannot save the song, which is smack down in the middle of the tracklist. Luckily the next song builds more on the second part of ‘Tundra’, resulting in this beautiful, calm, and slowly growing track. This one has a lovely little core sound, and the atmospheric instrumentals on top carry you into whatever dream world you can conjure (with, later, the kick in of the percussion again).
One of the nice things about a good ambient album is that the soundscapes that are built can trigger emotions or memories.Teen Daze uses a lot of live instruments and field recordings to bring a humane touch to these soundscapes. A nice example of this is the serene vocals and the piano one hears on ‘Listen’. Together they bring that earlier mentioned touch into the broader synth frame. There are some moments though where the balance seems to be a tad off, whereas at other times it seems to meander a bit too long in a certain state of being one might wish it would kick itself out of (‘Forest at Dawn’ comes to mind). At its best though, Glacier is the kind of album that you put on, close your eyes to, and suddenly you find yourself conjuring certain memories and emotions that somehow, someway fit the soundtrack you’re listening to.