Very few people who listen to music appreciate the value of pure sound. I don’t mean pretty melodies and exquisite harmonies — most of us enjoy those things. But then you have the people who like noise. These people who are aficionados of screeching, scraping and roaring have their own genres to listen to that are quite interesting, but you probably shouldn’t invite your noise-music-loving pal to program the playlist at your next soirée. I myself have gotten through the entirety of Xenakis’ “Persepolis” a few times, and my hair turned greyer every time. But it was worth it.
But there is a middle ground to be found between traditional Western ideas of beauty in music, and noise music that celebrates sound without melody. It comes through the juxtaposition of the two, which is a tricky business. You’ve got your song, quite nice on its own, but then you eff things up with some noise, to add — what? Therein lies the talent of the composer and producer capable of answering that question.
My favourite such act is Flying Saucer Attack, who in a series of albums combined folky songs with layers of guitar noise to create a glorious explosion of sound, but with a tender human heart. The mix was necessary and completely sensible.
Now I have a new such act to add to the roster of noise/pop favourites.
The Dayflowers is the brainchild of Pat Rijd, a Toronto-based composer. His previous best-known venture was Love Kills, a band that used the templates of The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Raveonettes, that distinct mixture of volume, style, noise and songwriting styles borrowed from the sixties. The band was getting a good buzz going before parting ways, which was sad to me because I actually felt they may have done that style better than their influences — greater variety in the songwriting and a sharper pop sensibility.
The Dayflowers project is a little different. Rijd is an absolute master of the songwriting style that would usually be categorized as “oldies”, meaning, yeah, you can hear the Orbison and the Spector and Elvis and the Everlys and whoever else you care to name from the era, but it’s not often you can say that a fellow could easily travel back in time and fit right in with the best. In 1963 Rijd would have been scribbling away in the Brill Building, writing giant hits for singers before launching a solo career and making Neil Diamond look like a hack.
However, he’s here, and he’s ours, and I’m happy about that.
Rijd fuses these songwriting skills with the possibilities of sound and noise to create music that sounds like it’s being listened to through a sonic fog, almost as though you can hear and feel the years that have passed since this sweet type of song ruled a more innocent (on the surface) age.
Because this is a one-man deal, the songs are recorded sans drums, but there’s more than enough instrumentation to fill the sound. Rijd himself possesses a soft voice that reminds me very much of the early singing style of Paul Simon (before Simon got the awful idea that he was funky).
The album starts with the short “Heart and Soul”, a nice easy drift into the album that sets the sonic manifesto with a “Blue Moon” style progression, a pretty melody, shimmering feedback and loads of reverb.
“Why Don’t You Go With Me” almost swings, with overdriven electrics accompanying a jaunty melody worthy of the Everly Brothers, but with those same slightly ominous shrieks of feedback sound overlaying the proceeding — an uncomfortable juxtaposition that somehow works.
“It’s the Morning” feels quite Phil Spector-ish with a hint of Motown, with the sounds of harps and what I rather hope is swelling mellotron strings. A really melodically solid piece of music.
“So Much in Love” has a finger-snapping beat and more simple, melodic electric guitar, but the song itself could be from one of Simon and Garfunkel’s first three folk albums — and I didn’t even miss Art!
A track titled “Johnny Ray (Unlistenable)” is the closest we get to pure noise music, some clicking and popping and whistling sounds that morph into a thumping beat with pretty harmonies gliding underneath. Sorry, Pat, I found it listenable.
“Hold Me” is the album’s prettiest song, an alternative universe hit with delicate fingerpicked guitar, more of those gauzy string sounds and a melody to die for, while “Valentines” comes close to the moody revisionism of Mazzy Star.
We leave the proceedings with the garage rock of “Tropic Isle”, which takes us out on a high note, The Troggs jamming with Tim Hardin and Glenn Branca, if you can imagine that!
This album is the work of a very talented, gifted musician with a clear, uncompromising vision. Amazingly, it’s free to download, so I would not miss it if I were you.