Imagine a novel made with a myriad of genres, shifting from one writing method to another, yet consistently spinning a story in the author’s signature style. Waves is the musical equivalent by Belgian band Pale Grey, who are impossible to describe in a single neat style, yet they have a recognisable essence that threads their tracks together.
The band describe Waves as a, “Singular atmosphere made of a strong identity, a combination of contrasts and consistency, of contradictions and continuity of evolution and permanency.”
‘Billy’ is the album opener, delivering angelic vocals layered with soaring beats, synth and brass – or at least effects that sound like synth and brass. Crescendos are one of the most musically satisfying things to my ears, and Pale Grey’s are particularly spine tingling.
‘Hunter‘ mixes dreamy with dance beats, as does ‘Loss‘ but at a slower pace. While the fourth track on the album, ‘Grace‘, begins with a gloomier feel, featuring moody keys and gravelly vocals, Pale Grey’s hopeful, heart lifting soars slip in to intersperse dark with light.
A listener new to this band may have decided the sound will stay with electronica, hazy pop and experimentalism, but no, ‘Late Night‘ is a hip hop track, delivering ascending rap from feature artist Serengeti that keeps on lifting. I’m thinking about TV on the Radio here, both in terms of sound and their ability to master a mix of styles.
Initially, ‘Blizzard‘ is indie pop with a Northern feel, suggestive of things Sheffield and Jarvis Cocker. Then it morphs to be like Future Islands, all high note vocals and, I’m imagining, elaborate dance moves.
There’s even a piano track, which through instrumentals alone feels sincere and moving, conveying that consistent Pale Grey uplifting dreaminess. In the epic twelve-minute album finale and title track, ‘Wave‘, I detected a touch of Justin Vernon’s Volcano Choir, concluding the album with some folk pop.
“Never ever less, no, never ever rest,” states a chorus in track nine, ‘Crow‘, that sums up this band. Not one of their tracks gives less than another and the album feels as though they’ve followed all of their ideas to the full. Produced by French producer Yann Arnaud (Air, Phoenix) and mixed in Paris, this is a gorgeous, imaginative record that never bores, and is very worthy of hitting repeat.
Waves is out now on JauneOrange/Believe.