Golden Gardens: How Brave The Hunted Wolves
Neon Sigh Collective

How Brave The Hunted Wolves, Golden Gardens' follow-up to 2011's full-length debut Between the Siren and the Amulet, presents the latest collection from self-described Dreamgaze duo vocalist Aubrey Rachel Violet Bramble and instrumentalist Gregg Alexander Joseph Neville. That the two identify their hometown as Utopia (rather than Seattle, Washington where the album was recorded) and characterize their music as “Dreamscapes and Anthems for Magical Minds” says much about the kind of alchemical experience the new release offers.

Though it's sometimes unwise to read too much into song titles, “Swirl,” “An Apparition,” and “Pearls Pierce the Mists” certainly do much to convey the gothic and oneiric qualities of the group's sound. Infused with mystery, “Gemini” and “A Sudden Violent Rainstorm” play like cryptic, modern-day Grimm Fairy Tales brought to haunting synthetic life. The group's reverb-drenched sound is well-served by a soul-stirring setting like “Alcove,” whose sheets of sound resonate at an epic pitch, while the album's dreampop at times feels oceanic it's so huge (e.g., “Transparent Things,” “Pearls Pierce the Mists”).

For those desirous of a reference point, Golden Gardens drinks from a similar well as Cocteau Twins, though the former opts for a slightly more atmospheric approach compared to the latter, whose music typically finds a melodious pop heart strongly beating beneath the music's gauzy surfaces. Not surprisingly, Aubrey Rachel Violet Bramble's singing isn't as distinctive as Liz Fraser's, whose vocalizing is a thing of beauty indeed, though that's less a criticism of the Golden Gardens singer than it is an acknowledgement of Fraser's singular gift. Bramble's vocal sound is closer in style to a singer such as Julee Cruise than Fraser anyway, which is consistent with Golden Gardens' emphasis on moodscaping and entrancement. Further to that, the singing is treated as part of the total sound fabric more than placed out front as vocals often are, a move that again suggests a stronger preoccupation with texture than standard song form. That's not to suggest, however, that the group's not able to produce a good, solid dose of dreampop when it wants to, as “Ostara” makes clear.

January 2013