Marshmallow Coast at Stereo Embers

I’ve had to quit asking. Such has been the abundance of extraordinary music crossing my desk from heretofore unheard-of (at last my me, and here I thought I was pretty aware of the lesser-known corners) that I just can’t ask inside my head as still another modest but exquisite gem of an album makes my pleasure chakras glow like it’s Christmas Fourth of July and sex all tangled together: “Where did they come from?!”

Whereas it often seems that they’ve crawled out of the sub-strata of the sub-strata of the woodwork, most often, as is the case with Marshmallow Coast, those responsible have been at this for a while, with a substantial body of work behind them. In the case of Andy Gonzales I suppose I might have known better – his CV includes of Montreal, Music Tapes, and SEM faves Mind Brains – but the fact remains that Vangelis Rides Again, misleading cover art aside, lands with a flurry of deft, if very synth-rich, surprises.

Whether it be the lonely popsike elegance of “Hash Out Cash Out” that purrs with a dark radiance, the way “Hills Are Alive” takes Sound of Music‘s most famous refrain and injects it with as glint of unease more native to The Hills Have Eyes even as it sighs with the warm reassurance of a soft electric piano and Gonzales’ pining timbre, how the title track takes its name-checked artist and lures him into a shadowed but shining moonstruck cul-de-sac, all floating rural synth, lurking but nimble bass, and a melody to (maybe literally) die for, “Homeless Baby” borrowing liberally from “On Broadway” while permeating it with the hollowed horror of the mundane shame to which its title alludes – synthy echoes bounicing off the city’s buildings on just another night of neglect – or “Forever” obliquely referencing “Over the Rainbow” while drifting through a numinous out there where the immortal clocks in with the sadly temporal, one synth dripping bright silver rain as another scampers slowly underfoot, the track both ephemeral and desperately finite, Vangelis Rides Again tweaks mystery, curries curiosity, and comes this close to solving the world’s problems. Escapist in its pleasingly disorienting way, the album is also as centered as any work I’ve heard this year.

Gem city, folks, gem city, and available here.

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