DulceSky – Lands


Lands is DulceSky’s debut album, recorded after the release of an impressive EP titled Media Luna/Half-Moon. Oliver is the main man behind the band (lead singer, beat programming, more), but it’s also a family affair with his wife, Dannika, on keyboards and backing vocals (sometimes Leigh is on keyboards and backing vocals; Mitchell is on drums) and his brother Daniel on bass. Oliver was born in Chile, but eventually made his way to Utah (with other geographical detours along the journey). His first band was called Subdroides and there was a time period in his musical life when he was bowled over by The Catherine Wheel, The Pale Saints, House of Love, and Ride (weren’t we all?) and those influences shine through on this album.

What separates DulceSky from the rest of the dream-pop pack is Oliver’s engagingly captivating voice, the band’s knowing grasp of guitar and drum dynamics, and their cloudy, dreamy melodies set against a guitar-rock-noise background. Their songs aren’t ‘floaty’ in the traditional shoegazer sense – they don’t hang delicately in the air (well, okay, maybe in fragments of their songs). Most of the songs take hold immediately and are filled with ever-changing tempos and tones and an undercurrent of guitar and electronic noise, like the crashing of ocean waves and fast-receding tides.

I’m bringing up the ocean as a metaphor for the movement and sound of the album (even though it’s called Lands and not Waters) because of the magnificent roar of the guitars, the choppy, propulsive drumming, and the comforting placidity of Oliver’s vocals. The most fitting visual description I can think of is that of the slow lowering of a helicopter over a body of water – where Oliver’s voice is that calm, central spot directly below the helicopter, where the water is parting, and all around are the whipped-up waves of guitar and drum sounds.

Oliver has a sonorous, warm, lightly-accented, meditative, yet melancholy voice that fits perfectly with the main themes of his lyrics that include looking back at the past, the ever-changing world, growing up and moving on, travel (geographical and emotional), dreams, memories that fade over time but are not forgotten, loss, love, and friendship.

“Ian Is Here” starts off with a warped-record-on-turntable sound (don’t be alarmed, the album is fine!) that fades away while a slowly dawning sound of synths and strummed guitar takes over that is very The Church-like in texture. This opening song blossoms with sinuous, brighter guitars and Oliver’s voice modulating between a lighter, higher tone and a deeper, contemplative tone, as the background sounds become more expansive. Oliver sings about dreams and the future and a “little boy who keeps marching on” against liquid guitar notes…and then the beauty fades back into the warped-record sound…Why are the songs that kick off albums always so short?! I would love to hear a longer version of this song.

“Half-Moon” is the song I heard first by DulceSky (off their EP in a slightly different form) and it opens with a punchy drumbeat, cymbal crashes, and bright, chiming guitars – then Oliver’s dreamy, dark, and flowing tones wend into the sound – and the ‘shoegazer effect’ takes hold and glorious guitars open up and ring out. The guitar sounds swell and crash and go buoyant, while male and ethereal female vocals harmonize sweetly on the choruses. A crisp, upbeat, lovely number that blends right into…

“Divine”, a darker, moodier song on the whole (listen to the lyrics: “…you are so divine and I love the way that you hate me…”) with sustained synth notes, guitar strum and frisson, crashing cymbals, and strong drumming (all reminiscent of an ocean in flux). Oliver starts off singing with high, airy vocals, but then pushes into a deeper, longing tone, finely supported by a backing of male vocals on the chorus, and once again, those glorious, ringing guitars. There’s a guitar solo two-thirds of the way through the song (at the traditional place) where the notes turn searing, then the muscular drumming and guitars take over and Oliver is at his most expressive and compelling.

“La Huida” features Oliver singing in Spanish and in a deeper tone – very smooth and assured, while fiery guitar lines play against a steady drumbeat. There is a The Cure-like feel to the bass (except more buzzy here) and a Lush-like feel to the liquid, chiming guitars. I love the bit half-way through the song where one guitar plays a searing, squelchy line. This song is a study in contrasts between Oliver’s calm delivery and the various burnished, fiery guitar sounds that follow the melody.

“I Dreamt of You” is a beautiful, haunting song, with steady-paced drums, Lush-like slow guitar-strum, an elegiacal background chorus, and a mournful Oliver singing with lighter, yearning vocals that suddenly drop into deeper tones (“I went back to sleep to find you in my dreams.”) and fiery, piercing guitar lines and big, crashing cymbals. The pacing, minor keys, Oliver’s sweetly sad vocals, and angelic wordless chorus all combine to give this song an epic feel.

“Movie-Like Country” contains strummed guitars, drums, and cymbal shimmer that herald an ascending guitar line, and once again, a big, flaming, electric guitar sound. This song alternates between spare verses (drumbeat, background circling guitar, Oliver’s vocals) and smashing choruses that have a ‘rock’ guitar and crashing cymbals sound to them.

“White Fields” starts off like “Leave Them All Behind” by Ride (I won’t even try to describe that!), and then drums and cymbals kick in, long with driving guitars. Oliver’s vocals sound more muted (not as up-front) as he is enveloped on the choruses by crashing cymbals and ascending guitar tones. The sound gets ripped up in a great way on the uitar solo, a raging squall of guitar that is over way too quickly.

“Friend In Space” is a spacey, slower-paced, beautiful number that has a different type of drumbeat sound, Oliver sounding melancholy and dreamy, and backed on the choruses by echoey male and female vocals and wavery guitar bits. This song features light piano notes and beat programming that give it a more electronic feel, instead of a ‘rock’ or guitar sound.

“Infinite Galaxy Eyes” has Oliver singing in deeper, confessional vocal tones against chiming guitars and mournful or violin notes. The chorus is uplifting, with a chugging guitar rhythm and light, but pensive male and female vocals. Once again there is a balance between the slower verse sections, with their electric guitar lines and the dreamy choruses, with driving guitars. Past the halfway mark the sound gets even more ‘shoegazer’, with dynamic, thumping drumbeat, fuzzed-out guitars, cymbal shimmer, and a run of hanging-just-below-the-clouds male and female vocals. Near the end bright, sharp guitars come in, leading right into…

“Lands”, which is filled with propulsive, driving guitars, cymbal shimmer, low-flame guitars, flat-smacked drums, and Oliver singing in a plainer, storytelling tone, until right before the chorus, when he raises his vocals to a higher, echoey tone, and the guitars roil and flame and do that great, squelchy bit that I love. At the end, the turbulence calms down and plunked keyboard notes and guitar move in for a short time.

“Always” is another beautiful song with a synth keyboard and mournful guitar line start that gives the tune a wandering feel (like The Church). Oliver is contemplative here, singing “I always think of you” against melancholy strings, low-key cymbal shimmer, and spacey, electronic sounds. There is *space* in this song – it doesn’t push like many of the previous songs – there is room to ruminate…while the sustained strings and keyboard sounds fade away…

“Keep Coming Around” is a pleasing finisher, with an Interpol-like, thumping drumbeat start and chiming, far-away sounding guitar. Oliver’s smooth vocals are intermittently joined by female vocals on certain phrases. There is a nicely strummed guitar pattern with a bright texture, muffled drumbeat, and spacey sounds in the mix. Once again, this song has *space* to it – it’s not rushing to the finish line (at least not the first half of the song). By mid-song there is an uplifting feeling to the vocals and chiming guitars, and mandolin is introduced, and the bright, ascending guitars get more tumultuous, along with cymbal crashes and a burnished frisson of guitars that aim for and reach the sky.