After a spate of PR-initiated downloadings and listenings of various creative merit, an unmitigated week of busyness, and not a lot of sleep at all, Dråpe represented the clean slate I unknowingly needed. After one listen of the band’s single ‘Round and Around’, the bad had been washed away and replaced with Scandinavian shoegaze. 'Relax/Relapse' is the first album of Ketil Myhre, Eirik Kirkemyr, Eirik Fidjeland, Lars Kristian Boquist and Even Hafnor, and stands as a strong marker for the incredible music coming out of the scene that rarely makes it over to this side of the North Sea. The album is bookended by the titular ‘Relax’ and ‘Relapse’, the former being an instrumental piece of little more than one minute, a perfect vignette of the album’s typical sound.
The first song proper is ‘Replica’ – a poppy, upbeat affair with ulterior motives. It draws you in with promise of '60s-throwback guitar riffs and familiar trem/whammy sounds from surf and Tame Impala, only to pin you there with something wholly different: a plaintive, heart-melting vocal delivery that not only turns the warbled backline on its head but informs exactly how this album will make you feel from now on. Following track ‘?’ plays more with this dichotomy, as Doors organs interplay with Fishing For Crabs falsetto and the now-typical Dråpe guitar sound – apparently achieved in part by the leaving of instruments out in the cold to shrink the wood and alter the tuning slightly.
‘Pie In The Sky’ introduces some drum-driven urgency, with trebled synths, well-disguised guitars and a refreshingly unique, clear bass sound co-mingling for something that could well have been a Weird Fishes/Arpeggi B-side. It surges forward like a burst-bank river taking your house in its entirety: everything is there, defined, and static around you, but you still feel like you and everything are going very very fast, very very loudly. Middle track ‘There Is A House’ is of my favourites on ‘Relax/Relapse’ – after one and a half minutes of what seems like the song’s bread and butter, the band drop into a near-apocalyptic groove that bears little structural relation, and stay there until the song’s end four minutes later. In these four minutes, lead guitars shimmer with 3-bar high-octave chords while bass bounds around the fundaments of the environment and organs, white noise and epistemic delay fiddlings make up the sea-froth of a tidal wave to ‘Pie In The Sky’s river. This is one of those songs of which it’s a shame to reach the end.
‘My Friend The Scientist’ boasts sublime harmonies and suitably fragile surrounding sounds, where ‘And You Change Your Mind’ brings back a familiar sensation, with fervent drum grooves driving endless guitar melody, percussive bass, cirric singing, and your house yet further downstream. ‘Relapse’ closes out the album with intermittently frail-the-strong instrumentation, repeated lyric phrases and cymbal-crashes backswashing the debris from your roof.