Masterful, psychedelic soundscapes
As psychedelic rock steadily bubbles under the public’s consciousness in the decade, occasionally stepping in the spotlight with MGMT or Tame Impala’s new releases, Vinyl Williams, whose real name is Lionel Williams, has become an underappreciated staple in the genre. An expert in crafting musical worlds, his abstract lyricism, ornate chord progressions, flickering percussions and deliberate tempo change has become Williams’ sound, setting him apart from his contemporaries in the genre. This sound continues in his latest release, Azure. With Williams’ usual masterful over musical texture, Azure is an exciting and immersive listening experience.
In Azure, Williams’ impressive command over musical atmosphere is apparent in the soundscapes he is able to create. This can be seen in the album opener, “LA Egypt,” which features distant and spacey vocals over nostalgic psychedelic rock instrumentals. The gripping percussion switch-up towards the end plays off of the energetic guitar and spacey sparkling synth to create an apocalyptic atmosphere.
William’s impeccable attention to texture and atmosphere in his sound complements and clarifies the often abstract lyrics. With lyrical themes of finding truth, “Soft Soul” features organic acoustic guitar strumming sounds that lie at the core of its instrumentals as they swell, dwindle and traverse through ornate harmonies with evolving textures, creating a surreal and complex balance between dreamy and eerie in its sounds. Similarly in “Azure,” the instrumentals switch from the sophisticated psychedelic groove to the more subdued atmospheric guitar soundscape to the subtle increasingly urgent percussions, emulating the complex and lively sounds of nature to complement the track’s lyrical themes: paying attention to the interconnectedness of the world, of humanity.
The album closer, “Earth Observatory,” is a grand display of Williams’ capability in composing. Over the constantly evolving and fluttering waves of yearning chimes, sweeping synths and layered guitars, a simple strumming centers the track. Before the pattern gets repetitive, the track dissolves into an ambient soundscape with synths and subtle aquatic sounds whose chord progression gets increasingly darker over time as if it is a subtle warning of imminent danger. The album closer ends on this dark note, leaving in listeners a mix of wonderment and fear.
Evident in Azure, Williams’ sound has a sophistication that strikes a balance between being abstract and secular while retaining the laid-back, vivid essence of psychedelia. With masterful soundscapes that complement and clarify his abstract lyrical themes, Azure is an immersive listening experience that offers an intimate, visceral glimpse into Williams’ perspective on the universe.