by trevor elkin
Some music is made for the middle of the night. Soundtracks to the stillness of bedrooms lit by the LED of an alarm clock, flashing seconds one by one, ramping up the pressure to sleep before morning comes. Songs that saturate their surroundings instantly with a heady sense of nocturnal limbo – the only time (maybe) it makes sense to drink whisky straight and feel its warming kick. You know these moments, and so does Bryn Rieger.
From Winnipeg, European Vacation is Rieger’s outlet for his gentle “70s-ish keyboard-based stylings….like if Robert Smith listened to too much Dick Dale and had less emotions so he just played Sunday sets on the outskirts of Vegas”. While this isn’t a bad vignette for the sounds album ‘2’ makes, it does sell short Rieger’s ability to capture attention and hold it, almost infinitely it seems, with the silkiness of his vocal and retro repose of the samples, synths and skeletal beats. In another decade, this would have been a jazz album, a scratchy, heavyweight 33 to cherish and pull out of its sleeve when the occasion called for it. This is a digital release, but it feels just as solid, and just as important.
The abstract waypoints of ‘Introlude’, ‘Interlude’ and ‘Exitlude’ give ‘2’ its crucial entry and exit points, signalling that this is a collection meant to be enjoyed from start to finish, with no skipping. Track one proper, ‘Still Waiting’, doesn’t hesitate to set a reflective mood melodically and lyrically, tracking the weight of life’s hourglass, one grain of sand at a time: “Do you remember when we’d talk about all the places that we’d been? Yeah, me neither. Well I guess we’re still waiting“. The exquisite melancholy is barely self-indulgent, just wallowing deep enough to hold the moment steady and then move on. ‘Come On Baby Take My Pain’ is one of these moments; a recalled conversation, a relationship or perhaps an ending of one.
Then there is the overwhelming loneliness on ‘2’ that paradoxically connects us even more to it. “We’re just columns in a paper that no-one ever reads” Rieger sings in a misleadingly chipper-sounding ‘Please, please me, or, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’, like some restless epilogue to the idyllic picture painted on Lou Reed’s ‘Sunday Morning’. ‘Come On Baby Don’t Let Me Die’ deepens the introspection, soulful yet mournful, its simple use of keys and hushed voice is arresting. Finally, like a sunrise, ‘Regret & Repeat’ offers a crest of light in the dark and an opportunity for self-realisation. Its smooth synth pad backdrop emerging like the reddish clouds of the dawn – just beautiful.
While it may take you some time to find the right opportunity, or sweet spot, for European Vacation to nestle into, the wait is worth it. Be warned: once inside, you may never want it to leave.
More European Vacation here