Observer Drift | Fjords
by Rosie Ramsden
Fjords, the latest album from Collin Ward AKA Observer Drift, takes the grainy, bedroom-recorded dream-pop grooves of first LP Corridors to a whole new level of shoegaze flawlessness, without abandoning its roots. Built on a foundation of lo-fi bricks and electronic mortar, ‘Fjords’ is a veritable mansion of endless reverb and, synth-loaded beats, with hints of idiosyncratic, gentle guitar lines and elusive vocals to match. However, the album being completely self-recorded, and produced only by Collins himself, one gets the feeling that Observer Drift’s mansion is one of those uber organic, environmentally friendly, unique dwellings hidden away in the privacy of the woods; this LP is as authentic and stripped back as they come.
Album opener, ‘Machines’, introduces Observer Drift’s contemporary synth-stylings, and above all, his dreamy and contemplative thematic stance. This six-minute long opening track plays like a phenomenal, idyllic kind of shoegaze that fuses wistful lyricism and hazy electronica with an unexpected clarity of drum-based back beat. An unusual juxtaposition, it could be argued, though highly successful, and one that creates that sense of bewilderment when one has just awoken from a vivid dream; you know you were dreaming and that everything you’ve experienced was purely a creation of the subconscious, yet it felt so real that you wonder, if only for a second, if it was reality. It seems then, that when Collins set out to create an album that focused wholly on ‘the unexplored’, he managed to do exactly that.
Observer Drift’s level of highly-skilled musicality manages to sustain this unequaled point of transcendence and imagination throughout the entire 13 tracks, which has not one lapse in emotional force or relatable modernity. Taking a more fast-paced turn, tracks like ‘Azimuth’ with its jangling, textured synth and upbeat melody, and ‘Up in Arms’, a short and rattling guitar-based number, serve to display the unique diversity of the LP in all its glory. Amazingly, at no point in this album is the far-off ambience and beauty of the flowering, growing, blooming shoegaze guitars ever missing. And what a relief it is too.
What is truly gripping about Fjords, however, is that each song seems to stand alone in its own power; each is catchy as hell in its own distinctive way. While ‘Sporting Chance’ is an upbeat dream pop wonder, in which changes in pace, beauteous guitar riffs and a persistently unforgettable synth-based beat make it a track to remember, you’ll find the clever lyricism of songs like ‘Parallel Place’ have you singing the same poignant lines for days on end. “Look at yourself in the mirror/and It might become clearer” whispers Collins, before warning us in that tuneful drone of his that we’re “in the same place as before”’ making it hard not to be touched by what seem like extremely personal lyrics.
All of that said, the fusion of all thirteen tracks on Fjords creates a listening experience that you’ll never get tired of. While it is admittedly a dreamy musical journey that takes you out of yourself, or possibly more deeply into yourself than you imagined it possible to go, it is also one that could set you up for a stress-free night of star-gazing. This album will make, without doubt, the perfect pensive summer soundtrack.