It’s odd, I moved from one of the furthest places from the sea in the UK to virtually right on the coast and yet I very rarely actually go to visit the sea. I find the forests somewhat more rewarding, with their endlessly changing visage and less populated, endless branching pathways.
There is an allure to the water though, a peculiar feeling that one gets whilst in the presence of that ancient, mysterious god. It exudes a hypnotism both macro and micro, of energies displayed in the wavelets and ripples constantly playing across its endless span, and also in its deep tidal power and abyssal depths.
To be sure, the seaside on a warm, bright day is a calming, beauteous experience; little comes close in nature to the cerebral comfort provided by the ocean at times like that, and By The Sea certainly evokes that heartwarming pleasantry and immersive sensation. None captures that sweeping vista better than “Shoreline”, who’s vast, cool guitar drones are so reminiscent of Kyle Bobby Dunn that I’ve caught myself checking the playback several times to make sure I hadn’t accidentally switched over. It is pure escapism, less an interaction with space and more an immersion into it, sucked into the broad traces of the land and the humble, pastel hues and hazy skies that arc across the horizon.
Elsewhere we get a bit more intimate and hands on. Opening “Reflection” moves in pseudo-random shimmerings, a gauzy drone glow a warm backdrop against the fluttering synths and toy box plinking. It wobbles this way and that, the disturbed surface throwing back chaotic light shards set to some natural disorder.
B-side “Glimmer” returns to the water’s edge much later on, but by now the light is fading and we’re turned to Durand like loops in this lowkey and cerebral piece. It feels slower and lazier, the pops and sparkles blooming almost surprisingly, this bucolic realm at the edge of the day a fragile and precious thing, as though a bubble fit to burst its careful minimalism.
We don’t want any of it to end, but of course it must. Nostalgia wafts in on closing “Serein”, drones stretched out in plaintive sustains and the violin strings that supplement the mood. As the light dies so does the moment, that sparkly radiant ocean slipping back into the shadows and disappearing over the shoulder in this laboured sigh; air bending under the weight of the setting sun we close our eyes to fix the scene.
Whilst the tone and style of this record does change from piece to piece, it does a neat job of extracting the collection of feelings wrought by proximity to the water, and actually it is the differences and distinctions that end up making this such an accurate depiction of one of those rare days by the sea.