There’s something almost religious about the newest Charlatan LP, its narrative arc swinging from light to dark and back again. From the opening chords of “Lime Beauty,” it’s tropicalia paradise, awash in polarized-lens glinting twilight, fluorescent skies over the water. “Trace Blue Outlines” is trancelike and reflective, with long arpeggiated figures chasing each other skyward in a fugue. Darkness creeps in around the edges of “Vodka Rocks,” with almost post-rock moodiness bringing the side to a close.
"Traces" opens the B-side and is a breakout track. With dark Depeche Mode-style synth textures and plenty warped dissonance, it has almost an Altar Eagle vibe, but things get darker, deeper, and more personal as multilayered melodic lines close in on the loping drum track. This is the kind of song you don’t want to end, and wonder if you can set lyrics to. After "Foxes" provides the perfect interlude with classic Charlatan synth tones on a masterfully layered canvas, closer “Swimming Pool Summer Nights” is just as staggering. Its slow drum pattern echoes early Cluster experiments as blissed-out synths and even birdlike squawks pass through its celestial gates. As time goes on, it yields into what could almost pass for some kind of acceptance, embracing the darkness that came before it.
More than any before it, this is an extremely emotional Charlatan record―majestic, reflective, yearning for something like transcendence. Even though it’s richly layered, it’s not gauzy. There is nothing dreamy or half-remembered about these pieces. They are sharp, fresh as wounds. This record puts Charlatan on a seriously high plane for anyone exploring these tones, textures, or emotions.
Mastered by John. P. Twells at Seventh Door with original cover illustration by Caroline Teagle.