In the high pressure game of Promo Sump Bingo, sometimes you win big. Vanishing Kids, an act wholly unknown to me, lists themselves as “somnambulic doom,” and that sounded interesting enough to snatch from the murky waters and scurry away with to my Ape Cave of Solitude. The thing is, they’re not really doom at all. In fact, they’re one of those rare bands that openly defies easy classification. Every time you think you have them pigeonholed, they sprout 4 new musical tendrils with which to crush the ducks you’d lined up so nicely in a row. The core of the Wisconsin-based outfit’s sound is undeniably the heavy, psychedelic rock of the 70s, but that’s merely the jump off point for a weird exploration of metal, shoegaze, indie rock and a host of off-kilter ideas purloined from emo, alternative music and Krautrock. The music is very heavy in mood, even if it’s not actually heavy metal as we know it. It’s also intensely captivating, and maybe, just maybe, a work of real genius.
Mammoth opener “Creation” is false and tricksey out of the gate, fooling you into thinking this is a standard form of doom as gentle guitar strums give way to waves of rumbling bass and fat, distorted riffs that feel heavy as holiday fruitcake. 70s Moog organ lines swell and rise majestically and you’re greeted by the unique vocals of Nikki Drohomyreky – high-pitched, yet strangely soothing and hypnotic. It’s a heady concoction, heavy, but so full of wistful melody and melancholy it’s hard to consider it doom. It’s almost like Warning doing a Christmas album, if you can imagine that. Floating flecks of 70s acid rock merge and mate with glum shoegaze and drone, and only a professionally prescribed dose of LSD could make the results more vibrant and intoxicating. The title track utilizes the organ to excellent effect, making you feel like Iron Butterfly is playing as you ride a bumper car through your own shadowy subconscious. Haunting and ephemeral, the fragile chorus is like a passport to a glowing, joyous afterlife. It’s a beautiful experience and two songs in, I needed assistance getting my jaw off the office floor.
“Without a Sun” shifts gears, introducing a palpable 80s vibe and elements of Krautrock. This song is a real nostalgia trip, and in its 80s textures I hear faint reflections of such diverse acts as Split Enz, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths and The Cure. The drum sound is that odd plastic-like CONK so many New Wave acts adopted, and I want to hate it, but can’t. “Mockingbird” reintroduces a stoner sensibility and Kyuss-esque riffs but the overall mood is much closer to Fascination Street era The Cure. Drohomyreky’s vocals pierce through the heavily layered soundscape like a laser, forcing the song’s oddness into digestible, accessible forms, making it shockingly catchy. Later cut “Rainbow” marries the dreamy qualities of The Moody Blues with indie rock and Pink Floydian guitar-work in a lush and gorgeous chapel of sound, crafting another special moment, while teaching the listener the only thing they can expect is the unexpected.
There are no missteps, and at 50 minutes, Heavy Dreamer doesn’t feel long. In fact, it’s the most timeless listening experience I’ve had in years. The whole thing floats by in a beguiling, entrancing haze, outside of the rules of what we normally anticipate from an album. You spend a goodly portion of the first spin trying to quantify and classify what the band is and what they’re attempting. By the second go through, you just give in to the experience and accept the now. The way the band layers and develops texture and sound is a wonder. Jason Hartman (Jex Thoth) alternates between minimalist riffs and wild, jammy solos, but somehow he always feels restrained and in the right place at the right time. Jerry Sofran’s big bass presence is essential, rumbling and looming like a dangerous wave, waiting for the right time to crash down on your lazy introspection. I can’t say enough about Nikki Drohomyreky’s performance. Her vocals are a thing of beauty, delicate but forceful, heartfelt and incredibly soulful. They drill right into your brain and I can’t imagine this music being anywhere near as user-friendly without her warm tone acting as a guide rope. Her organ playing is also top-notch, adding loads of mood and a truly unique character to the airy, multi-faceted compositions. This is one dangerous band, folks.
I didn’t get what I expected from Heavy Dreamer, and I’m very happy for that. As outside of my normal listening routine as this is, it’s something I didn’t even know I wanted or needed. It’s both. While I haven’t the slightest idea how to classify what Vanishing Kids did here, I know it’s something rare and exceptional. I also know I’ll be dissecting their prior albums in the coming weeks to see what I missed out on. Track this thing down, find a dark, quiet place and use headphones. You can thank me later (with cash or high-end craft beer).
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Websites: vanishingkids.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/pages/category/Musician-Band/Vanishing-Kids
Releases Worldwide: November 30th, 2018