As a person whose very essence is made up of wiry anxiety there are very few things that can relax me; puppies, lightning and the xylophone usually work. But as I write this very sentence I can’t help but feel eerily at ease. No, I’m not cuddling a xylophone playing puppy in a thunderstorm. There are these wonderfully breezy melodies flowing from my speakers, and even though rain clouds loom over Sydney this afternoon it feels like the sun is out. Those melodies belong to Sunbeam Sound Machine, and their debut record Wonderer packs one hell of a dreamy punch.
Let your mind and soul go for a wander with Sunbeam Sound Machine and the gorgeously dreamy instrumentation and thoughtful, provoking lyrics of Wonderer.
After striking gold with the his EP One, the man behind the curtain Nick Sowersby is at it again with his full length debut which speaks in volumes about this young man’s vision and finesse. Dreamy, hazy pop music has never been my jam since it doesn’t suit my ‘rage against the suburbs’ sensibilities, but I’ll make an exception for Wonderer. Especially when he repeatedly sings “The world’s such a beautiful place” on Infinity + 1, mister Sowersby sure knew how to deflate my apathetic balloon.
In fact repetition is something that is well, repeated, constantly throughout Wonderer. This album doesn’t concern itself with asking the big questions of the purpose of existence or trying to find one’s place in the world in a painfully existential manner. What Nick has done instead is make a record that is very introspective and reflective, but in a self-affirming way that see him accept the various parts of himself. And that’s why I feel so calm listening to Wonderer. It’s not just those dreamy instrumentations working their magic, but those reassuring lyrics and vocals that make it clear that turning away from the bitter things in life is a mistake, and what must be done is to move forward the best you can.
“What if this takes the rest of my life? What if it’s just a moment in time? What if this takes a part of me? What of it’s just a waste of my time?” These are all very good questions posed on Wandering, I, the answers to which lie in “Time is changing, from day to day. It must be tempting, to turn away”. Lyrics like this keeps the affair out of the wallowing territory and into a level of enlightenment. The pause in music on those last three lyrics really drive home the point and create a very dramatic effect.
Meanwhile lyrics such as “All I want, all I want, is to feel like the only one in your arms” on In Your Arms could easily be mistaken for lyrics from a cheap boy band, but the delivery of these lines is what really sells this song. Multiple vocal takes layered over one another at different pitches capture the essence of love and desire in a nice way. The gorgeous, understated guitar that comes in at the end really pushes this song into a whole new dimension, because apparently this track couldn’t get any more dreamy.
I’m making a point of these minimalist lyrics because they really are the highlight of Wonderer. There is a lot of dream-pop music out there so there is a danger of sounding like the last band who were in the room, but Sowersby has managed to avoid this pitfall by keeping the focus on his inspired and thoughtful lyrics, even if there aren’t many of them to go around. That’s not the say the music is sub-par. When their are no words to be heard there is plenty of beautifully arranged music that echoes, reverbs and hypnotises.
Being able to tell stories with instruments alone is something any musician worth his guitar strings should be able to do, and venturing towards the back end of Wonderer is where this becomes clear with Sunbeam Sound Machine. A Brief Attempt At Explaining The Sky, although only a minute and thirty nine seconds in length, yet really speaks to the wonder of that big blue thing above us. The gentle keys used are soft and comforting, while the synths and distorted looping vocals in the background open up a wealth of space on the track, reflecting beauty, mystery and hope that can be found in the sky.
There are thirteen tracks on Wonderer but I only dare to detail a few of them here so you can discover your own meanings behind this echoing collection of songs. The simple, minimalistic lyrics keep things relatable and the delivery of these lyrics speak in volumes of Sowersby’s ability to effortlessly paint serene pictures of the everyday on a canvas of looping, dreamy harmonies. Wonderer is an album that takes you on a journey of self discovery, so don’t fight the sense of calm that settles over you when you hear it. Just let go and have Sunbeam Sound Machine take you on one helluva trip.
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