Donor Lens - Desire Path
May 6, 2022
To envelope a listener in an environment with even a shred of immersive quality is very much a feat within itself. It can be very hard to drag a person away from the cold, hard mundanity of the world we experience around us. Warping the boundaries of our world through sampling and manipulation is one way of displacing someone. But to create an imagined place from scratch is a truly dazzling achievement. 9 Reflections is a collaborative effort from Golden Living Room & Bathroom Plants, released on Virtual Dream Plaza. One mere glance at its beautiful artwork conveys that a journey through a strange and completely original realm is very much the central objective.
Earnest notes play out at the start of Pangea Gentle. The sound is that of a piano with its treble strings just a little bit loose, as metallic resonance creates a sharp and vivid twang. Almost immediately, as other instruments begin to poke their heads out, a beautiful natural feeling emanates from the music. A playful tune rings out from strangely ascending notes. The tune is one you would find at the beginning of some starry-eyed JRPG. The quaintness of a quiet hometown or small field, melded with a pang of longing sadness. The artists beckon instruments forward and they burst in a flowery plume. Each part following a unique pathway through the natural setting. That same heartfelt melody stays lodged as the central position, the unfaltering sun of the track as life improvises around it.
More airy beginnings as we move deeper into the world Golden Living Room & Bathroom Plants have created. As Psychic Cycle grows we hear a synth with the same portamento effect as the track before. Something about this drooping style of melody imbues a golden sunshine onto everything in the mix. That lovely laziness one feels when drenched in sunlight. This is contrasted with strong and confident bursts of instrumentation, unfaltering in their delivery. Deep in the mix, sounds trickle and pool as ghostly voices float just above like mist. Again, the melodies become emotive and daring at points, but frequently resolve in that wonderfully complete way that someone like Haruomi Hosono’s music does. Melodies and chords are emotive, but regularly find a happy ending in this rich atmosphere of sound.
Smooth keys provide a bed of comforting melody as panpipe notes shoot out into the air, bobbing and weaving and soaring together. Bubble of Perception has that glassy-eyed feeling of a Christopher Cross song, the solemn guitar sitting perfectly behind the lead synth with curling new age scales. It becomes abundantly clear how shocking it is that this is made by two people at this point. Everything on the track is brilliantly reigned in, working together as if the product of one person’s mind, or as if it were played live by a group of musicians with years and years worth of experience together. Things lift ever higher off the ground, the artists inching up note by note until everything floats into the air.
Another comforting motif played through bells that sound like glistening water. Visions of golden sunlit afternoons are illustrated in the mind of the listener. The playful improvising instruments representing dandelion seeds buffeting majestically into the air. Missing Dreams (I Can’t Remember) is the first time we hear the use of vocals on 9 Reflections as well. They are first worked in as part of the general plume of chords and sound, but then become much more distinct, though it is pretty much impossible to understand what they are saying. Almost as if the natural surroundings whisper to us. A clattering lead synth guitar bursts out, setting out a contrast to the softer sounds. The artists are indebted to a feeling of relaxation and harmony, everything in the track seems to be calling to the listener to let go and drift further into the world created.
As the title would suggest, Definitive Journey finds the artists focusing on soundtracking a voyage rather than accompanying our doze in lush green fields and orchards. The notes tending to a more determined minor sound. Synthetic sounds bend and wobble, the artists keeping that same charming sound palette and repurposing it to be a little more austere. A resonant lead jumps from one chord to the next as veiled panpipes and pads claw at its heels. The artists have a complete control over their instruments, and seem intent on pushing them further and further. Having created a wonderfully vivid image, they continue to dial up the definition and emotion in every scene.
We find ourselves by the bank of a brook, the warm sun represented by comforting pads. On top of this, a carefree melody is set out shared between more droopy whistling pipes and organic plucked strings. We find our gaze falling further and further down the small stream, the curious motif the soundtrack to a small insect or lifeform’s journey down the continuously flowing water. Whisper of the Reeds coasts like a gentle boat ride.
Neon Colossus represents a departure from that vibrant natural setting that Golden Living Room & Bathroom Plants have been showing us in favour of a more spiritual plane. A formless vapour falls around the listener, sporadic lights and visions appearing around us in the mist. Choral voices push against the film of light, airy instrumentation. A low end emerges further on, giving the track a more voyage-like feel. Each definitive note is a bend or dip in our pathway as amorphous cloud whisps by us. The vocals regulate, gliding beside the listener with a repeated melody. Still the digital panels appear in the clouds as electronic sounds fizzle. Resonant synth begins to climb up to unseen heights, as the artists push their limits once again. A sense of vertigo overcomes the listener, every cathartic major chord bringing an incredible view from a great height, and every unsure minor-centric note raising us a little bit higher.
We venture back into quaint surroundings on A World So Real. Clucking notes lay on top of each other in a simple fashion, like building blocks as the instrumentation groups around them. The track is akin to the beginning of an open-world game. Possibilities are endless, grandiose noises lined up next to elementary yet spritely riffs.
Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree combines the heady feeling of Neon Colossus with this admiration for natural soundscapes that has been communicated throughout 9 Reflections. The gentle commotion of a woodland or meadow area meets cloudy pads and bright piano in a heavenly embrace. An elegant light shines forth from everything, the haze clearing as a shaker-led rhythm begins to guide the instrumentation. The artists break the warmth again with a loud synth lead, but instead of overshadowing everything else, it seems to galvanise the background music, beckoning it forth into the clear light of day. The track truly represents the very pinnacle of the emotive charm that Golden Living Room & Bathroom Plants are able to achieve.
Beautifully melodious keys flourish with new age/jazz fullness. The first chord is warm and comforting, the second slightly more disjointed and dissonant. Liquid Cruise is an apt name, a natural fluidity in the sustained nature of the glittery keys. From the stream, brighter sounds begin to jump and cavort. A arpeggiated instrument flips and jumps about until suddenly it becomes this wonderful, smooth riff. It is an undeniably cool track. The jazzy undertones complimented by the artists’ willingness to mould instruments however they see fit, and to shift sounds suddenly and without warning. Steel drums are integrated, fizzling sporadically on the bed of chords that provides the support.
We venture to icier parts of this imagined realm on Freezing Winds. A lively Mort Garson-esque synth dances like glittering snowflakes on the bracing breeze. The sun still shines though, that magnetism the artists have created still alive and well even at low temperatures.
Dulled chords set another uncertain surface upon which Illusions in the Fog takes place. Things are mystic until a wiggling sound begins to swim within the fog around us, guided by towering flashes of light in the greyness. Notes hit and evaporate in a whirling gust on the whole of 9 Reflections. There’s something in the air that lets nothing remain still or stationary for too long. Anxious steps forward reflected in the strange chord progressions. But there is always a throb of affable heat in the air as great gusts of reassuring melodies begin to blow through the obscuring air all around.
The listener’s final Catharsis starts with a decidedly clearer air about it. Bright piano sets out a pathway, engaging in its delivery. The rest of the instruments deftly follow, vocaloidish synths and cloudy pads caper just behind this flagship part. There is a sense of judgement that ebbs from the tone of the track. A macabre, showdown quality to it. A seriousness that explodes into a dissonant muddle at a few points. The artists never lose grip though, throwing the listener into nonsensical cul-de-sac chord sequences only to show them another alley or tributary. The closer of 9 Reflections feels a lot more melody-led, a decisive conclusion to an otherworldly experience.
The two artists paint a vibrant landscape throughout 9 Reflections. Pulling us high up into the sky at some points, and down winding, overgrown paths at others. Both Golden Living Room & Bathroom Plants showcase a true gift in the art of storytelling, sound engineering and composition. Rarely do you experience an album that pulses with vibrancy, whilst also sounding so ornate simultaneously.