A hypnotic, ostentatious debut
Garden City Movement has a lot to get off their chest. Or, given the cerebral nature of their music, a lot to get out of their minds. The Tel Aviv-based electronic outfit has released three EPs and attracted some high profile opening gigs (Bonobo, Alt-J, Caribou) since their arrival late in 2013. Output and activity such as theirs, in a strange manner unique to the current moment, loads their debut LP with expectations typical of a follow-up to a breakthrough when, for all intents and purposes, Apollonia is the band’s first major artistic statement – the one that should bear the promise of the breakthrough. The fecund minds of Roy Avital, Yoav Saar and Johnny Sharoni have little interest in reducing their credo to a consumer-approved size, though, and while respect for that is due, it has led to something more akin to a dissertation than an album.
A sprawling eighteen-song tracklist on a debut smells enough of indulgence to turn some people off, which is unfortunate since bloated does not necessarily mean uninteresting – not consistently, anyway. Garden City Movement vacillates between dreamlike, airy electronica and tense, deep, funk, rendering each in a unique style that often incorporates exotic instrumentation and motifs, most artfully on “Slightly All the Time,” “A Means to An End,” and the title track. The album is painterly in its construction, with the edges of songs often bleeding into one another to create a singular ether from which form emerges and dissolves. It makes heavier, boldly defined highlights like “Foreign Affair” and “Bitter Moon” more pronounced in relief against their nebulous surroundings.
Those surroundings are their own songs, though, and sometimes register as little more than intermissions, prone to meandering, plodding and, ultimately, straining patience. Although the group’s rich, idiosyncratic sound is consistent and assured, there are songs like “Ueno Park, “For Tomorrow” and “Now” that don’t really go anywhere and can’t shake a feeling of inconsequentiality. An album is a comprehensive statement – a puzzle-like form in which every component is (or should be) counted as essential, but one gets a sense that a full third of Apollonia could be axed without altering the impression left by the whole.
Garden City Movement seems to be overflowing with ideas and perhaps let the anticipation of unveiling them in a fuller package than they have yet to supersede a crucial artistic continence. But they are a compellingly outré group and one whose explorations and musings are intriguing, even when they lead nowhere. Apollonia is deeply flawed, but it does what good debuts do and assures you of its makers’ promise. It would be wise to stay tuned.