Album Review

Walk Into The Sea

Walk Into The Sea

by Deer Park

Mole Music
8 / 10
24 December

Reviewed by Michael Harvey

You may be surprised upon listening to this album that it is by a three-piece, with nary a guitar in sight. Made up of vocalist/keyboardist Nick Walsh, multi-instrumentalist Shannon Walsh and drummer Mark Brenndorfer, Auckland's Deer Park have spent a fair while crafting their debut album Walk Into The Sea, and it shows. Meticulous layering and emotive vocalising are the band's key compositional trademarks - comparisons to the likes of Radiohead and Animal Collective are sure to abound - but Deer Park manage to invest most of these tunes with enough heart-on-sleeve sincerity to escape pigeonholing.

Opening cut "Jubilee" assembles itself gradually, like an musical exquisite corpse. By the time vocals begin to merge with the dissonant piano lines toward the end of the track, a different direction suddenly coalesces out of the musical ether. This is followed by "Kenwood Drive", shuddering along upon a wonky groove, with brass fanfares and Nick Walsh's voice aiming skyward. It is only by the third track "Jennifer" that it feels like the band are making a decisive statement, as opposed to creating sprawling soundscapes - with rolling drums, insistent synth-lines, and a powerful vocal performance, the track hems in the cinematic aspirations felt elsewhere on the album whilst retaining emotional depth. "Izabell" explodes beautifully near the end of its four minutes into a progression that you want to last for much longer. Moments like that, or the way the spacious, trumpet coda of "Sticks to the Afternoon" segues into an entirely different song ("When in New York"), or the expansive IDM textures of "Clocks" and "Neon Cities", recall Brian Eno's concept of soundtracking imaginary films - imagery and feeling are the focal points here as opposed to linear melodies and verse-chorus structures.

One of the interesting things about Walk Into The Sea is the live-band-intensity combined with the kind of layering and production that suits headphones to a tee, making this album a pleasure to listen to close-up and free of distraction. That said, left in the background it seeps into your consciousness. While the drifting, ambient nature of many of these tracks might leave some listeners at sea, Nick Walsh's vocals in particular give the songs their identity, and the playing throughout is precise and cohesive - nothing is overshadowed or overstated. Deer Park has made an album that eschews the obvious path for the subtle scenic route, and the rewards are consistently peppered throughout each song like hidden landmarks in the geography. The key is to pay attention.

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