Attention all lo-fi indie acts ceaselessly pasting vintage Polaroids on your 7” covers: you may be too late. “There’s definitely something really beautiful about being washed in reverb. I know I’m attracted to that. But my ears are getting tired of it. It would be refreshing to hear something cleaner,” Frankie Rose confesses to Pitchfork.
Sounds like Ms. Rose wishes to blaze new trails elsewhere, like any artist worth their salt. Trim away the familiar (the hazy reverb, post-pop guitar) and bolster the reverie snapshots of being simply Frankie Rose (The Outs are still intact don’t worry). Letting Brooklyn dodger/mashup maven Le Chev man the soundboards, at their private studio enclave dubbed The Thermometer Factory, allowed all the accoutrement to melt away — leaving the skeletal remnants frozen with the glo-fi shivers.
Unlike many album titles, Interstellar should be taken literally, or metaphysically, whichever hits you first. Our opening title track is suspended in a cosmic interlude of airy synths and flatlined whispers that gently cushion murmurs of “interstellar highways” and “moon dust.” All at once the levels rise, the cymbals crash and the girls resonate in harmony like a chrome tuning fork. Thunderous bass drum anchors the oscillation between utter bewilderment and Neko Case frenzy.
“Know Me” hooks any new wave connoisseur the first few seconds via an opening electric drum fills akin to A-Ha or even Dreams So Real. A spectral hum that connects verses of onomatopoeia and slow-arcing bass arpeggios that solidify into a more crystalline melody when refracting off of parallel guitars and organ. Thanks to her friend and former bandmate Hannah Lew (Grass Widow) we receive some Twilight Zone-y visuals for “Gospel/Grace.” You actually see how mesmerizing overdubs of Rose’ ominous mid-key tones can produce intstrumentals all their own.
“Daylight Sky” is as cool as it is unassuming. Fret gliding and auto-tuning aside, this autumnal hymn hovers through the ionosphere with little effort, or so it seems. Bass is laid down surreptitiously, only hitting those higher scales when Rose croons the titular chorus. Flurries of distant tambourine and warm keys emerge only when absolutely needed, never garnering more oxygen than the other streamlined parts.
As for the last half of the album, they show the framework for majesty, just not well arranged ornaments. “Pair of Wings” is chillwave at its most basic, and is largely awash in the same reverb that she has sworn off so far. Chamber-glo-fi might sound pretentious as hell, but it’s all that comes to mind when you hear the raw cathedral ruminations on “Apples For The Sun”, an aimless sojurn that explores so little of the space afforded to it. The same can be said for “Moon in My Mind”, a song that builds and builds to a climax in absentia.
Fortunately, even with some of its glaring vulnerabilities, this is not a galactic mindf*ck you want to miss out on. Boldly go where few “girl groups” have ever gone before.
Stream ‘Interstellar’ in its entirety here.