In, and out of time
Brian Collins’ low-fi folk debut Glacial Pace has been in the air for a while now. It comes to fruition 10 years after the conception of Collins’ bedroom moniker, Hurt Valley, which is a lot of space for brooding by any self-respecting musician’s standards, such that Glacial Pace is sadly stagnant, and sometimes intolerably so.
The album hinges on Pink Floyd-esque composition, though reimagined, quite surprisingly, within a contemporary context. The vocal treatment is closer to Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker than something Roger Waters or David Gilmour might condone, and in the slight instrumental spaces, there’s even a touch of Sufjan Stevens. It’s a pretty hot picture of the true alt-dream if that’s what you’re into. But by the end of it, Glacial Pace doesn’t quite match the hype or vigor of said influence. It quickly becomes apparent that these similarities are no doing of Collins himself. They’re an easy affectation, and it’s less appealing than we might have initially thought.
The whole thing is just too slow and notched down. It’s an entirely monotonous listen that even full-on low fi fans might find frustrating. Lead single “Apartment Houses” follows no deliberate melody or structure, it’s just a bit brighter than the other tracks, and so feels like a forerunner in some sense. Speaking about the track, Collins said, “it’s like that time you thought you were holding someone’s hand, but they were holding your hand, only to drag you into the woods and throw you into a pit of snakes.” He tries to convey a feeling of unknown love, but the lyrics (or at least what you can understand of them through the messy production), are far from any real message like this.
To try and separate the tracks is pretty pointless too because they’re all the same. It’s easy to build a wall up like this, against something you don’t like, but speaking objectively, a wall isn’t necessary here. Not even a small fence – because there’s no substance to hide against. Glacial Pace is weak by all definitions. If there is anything, in the slightest sense, for you to hold on to, it might be the well-strained falsettos on “Bothers,” or the blended guitars on “Keepsake Ruin.” They’re believable variations, and while they still uphold Collins’ overall style, they do break the mold. If only he had found the strength to push that further because the other side is always closer and warmer than it may seem.
Collins is drowning himself with his music – the broken melody, the sleepy structure, and worse more, the overbearing plainness of it all – this debut is a crooked man with no walking stick, and until Collins learns how to break the sound he knows, he’ll never be the musician he dreams of being.
So for now, drag me into the woods and throw me into a pit of snakes, but please, don’t make me listen to Glacial Pace again.