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s/t Ed Power , June 23rd, 2022 09:27

A suite of warm and fuzzy dreampop for those who like their chillwave with a dose of Abba, finds Ed Power

One of the lessons of Sam Ryder's Eurovision almost-win for the UK with his track ‘Space Man’, is that it’s hard to object to a long-haired dude who wants to give the world one big high-five. The other lesson is that, in the correct context, dreamily uplifting music can be among the most potent forces in pop. So pleasantly lilting was ‘Space Man’ even people who reflexively loathe British Eurovision entries (the rest of Europe for starters) went douze points dizzy for it.

Many, many universes obviously separate Sam Ryder from Lewis Young, the North London composer who has served his time in the trenches as guitarist with post-emo band Tea with the Queen and drummed with the Leaf Library, a space-rock outfit that has unobtrusively built an audience across the past 17 years. But they have one thing in common – a commitment to the sort of meditative vibrations that are simultaneously soothing and energising.

A strain of hallucinogenic detachment ripples through the Leaf Library – and it is that sensibility which Young explores further with new project. Brisk and baroque, Beneather’s debut album derives much of its energy from a kind of fuel-injected languor. Though never cloying or whimsical, it nonetheless envelops the listener in a prodigious hug. With loops that twist within loops, ambient textures poured on top, it gives off a sugar-spun lustre : the feeling is akin to being slowly immersed in a vat of room-temperature candy floss. As experiences go, it is ever so slightly claustrophobic – but not in a way that is necessarily unpleasant.

He doesn’t exactly bend over backwards trying to conceal his influences. The cooing wonderment of the Cocteau Twins forms a piece of the puzzle, as does the chillwave scene of a decade ago (there are flashes of early Ulrich Schnauss and of a pre-yacht rock Washed Out). Young, meanwhile, cites the rock star of the looped hymnal, William Basinski, and slow-core champions Grouper and Low, along with Abba.

That last might seem tongue-and-cheek but the sheer unrelenting cuddliness of some of the compositions suggests otherwise. As with Abba, the feel-good ache of Beneather is off the charts. ‘Dreamgaze’ features a slow riot of pastoral guitar and rococo Scandi-Pop vocals from Margate-based producer and film-maker Melinda Bronstein. And on ‘Halcyon Tide’, Bronstein delivers a sort of sad-Banshee coo against a riff that comes off like Durutti Column drifting towards that Supermassive Black Hole about which everyone’s tweeting.

A potential criticism of Beneather is that it is so deliciously ethereal that at moments it is difficult to hold on to – the harder you try, the less of it that’s there somehow. Then, maybe that’s the charm. There is something fascinating about music that arranges into pretty patterns only to immediate give itself to the ether. Here is a trip through the clouds that will have you walking on air for hours afterwards.