Gayngs - Relayted

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2010-05-17

Into the bubbling cauldron of musical influences affecting alternative and not-so-alternative music in 2010 - basically, one part Vince Clark plinky synth magic to two parts Flying Lotus psych-hop with a dash of early grunge mall-rat ennui - we must now, with a heavy heart, add the dubious delight of 10cc's AOR 'classic' 'I'm Not in Love'. If your head is now revolving like the Exorcist child's while your fingers reflectively hammer 'WTF!?' into the comment box at the bottom of this review, please know that Soundblab sympathises but, really, the signs have been there for a while and it just needed one grand, slightly dotty, artistic vanity project to tear the scales from our eyes.

Which brings us nicely onto Relayted by Gayngs. Producer Ryan Olson's musical project, which features members of Megafaun, Solid Gold, Bon Iver, Doomtree and many others, is based almost solely around that 10cc song, and in that sense it's a determinedly retro work. But, on the flipside, it's so 2010 he probably should have called it Twynty Teyn or something. This is an album full of ultra-smooth 80s AOR shot through with a kind of spooky, echoing miasma. In this way, it draws together threads which have stretched across Animal Collective's Fall Be Kind, Yeasayer's Odd Blood, Toro Y Moi's Causers of This, Gorillaz's Plastic Beach, Flying Lotus' Cosmogramma, even Foals' Total Life Forever. It's part of the very DNA of what's being called chillwave and it's spreading outwards as the influence of that trend grows. This perverse injection of bland 80s pop into the bloodstream of alternative music is insidious. In fact, it's like the sodding Illuminati - once you spot it, it's everywhere.

At this point you're probably thinking "But hang on, 'I'm Not in Love' was released in 1975, was it not? What's all this cobblers about 80s AOR?' You, of course, are correct, and this is the point where I must grudgingly admit that 'I'm Not in Love', just like David Bowie's Low, was way ahead of it's time. In fact, crossbreed Low and 'I'm Not in Love' and you get 80s Phil Collins, so you see what I'm saying here.

So what stops Relayted being a horrible beige-hearted beast? Well, the smart thing Gayngs have done is up the psychedelic weirdness quota in proportion to the high levels of AOR smoothness. So tracks like 'False Bottom' and 'The Beatdown' virtually explode with freaky sounds and sonic invention, while at their heart there lays a seductively sumptuous pop treat. It's a fantastic combination, something a kin to the pop/freak-out balance achieved by mid-period Beatles when Lennon and McCartney could still stand to collaborate with each other. Relayted is also a brave, uncompromising record. Many tracks, like the stately Fleetwood Mac pomp of 'Cry' take their time unfolding but there's always the looming treat of being pulled out of the shimmering sunshine of uncomplicated pop and plunged headfirst into the freezing waters of some lysergic sound collage.

If there's a real criticism to be made of Relayted it's that for a record so in thrall to pop, it's almost totally hook-free. Most of the music here is gorgeous but it drifts past in a sleepy, almost somnambulist state. There's also a sameness which pervades the album. On a compilation or mixtape, tracks like 'Ride' or the closing 'Diamonds and Pearls'-referencing 'The Last Prom on Earth' would serve as perfectly dreamy, reflective moments. Over the course of an entire album of slow-moving, lilting balladry, they kind of get lost. Thankfully, there's enough great music here to keep the listener coming back, so that the album's high points have a chance to emerge from the spliff fug they were very probably crafted in. In fact, just like naff 80s pop, Relayted is strangely addictive. If this is what the music of 2010 is all about, at least we won't have to call it a guilty pleasure in 20 years time.

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