Drab Majesty have always reached for other worlds. The title of their 2012 debut EP, Unarian Dances, was a reference to a cult of UFO obsessives who broadcast bizarre films on public access TV in Los Angeles. In interviews, the duo’s Deb DeMure (aka Andrew Clinco, formerly of Marriages) and Mona D (Alex Nicolau) have said that their pseudonymous personas and unsettling makeup are an effort to leave “no human trace” in their art. They’re straining for something beyond the everyday.
Their songs have largely lived up to this promise. Surreal and strange, yet nevertheless deliriously emotional, Drab Majesty’s records have often emulated guitar music’s most abstract emoters—Slowdive, Vini Reilly, and Felt among them—but their new EP An Object in Motion pushes further into the unknown. Written while DeMure was living in a restored A-frame in the small coastal town of Yachats, Oregon, the record is a document of isolation and introspection; it captures a time spent pulling at the seams of Drab Majesty’s gloomy guitar pop in an attempt to reveal its glowing core. What they emerged with is familiar in sound—delicately wavering guitar lines, wispy vocals that bear a debt to decades of goth’s great dramatists—but the songs stretch and twist into newly abstracted forms.
The 15-minute song “Yield to Force” is the clearest example of Drab Majesty’s newfound commitment to dreamlike structures and heavy-lidded ambience. Tensile guitar arpeggios knot into thick tangles and then slowly unfurl, like a ball of yarn floating in low gravity. Structurally, it’s a departure for their music: loose, impressionistic, and entirely wordless. Yet it’s still propelled by the sense of drama that has been the project’s signature for over a decade. Centrifuged down to its parts and reassembled into dizzying new arrangements, the composition represents a bold new direction, more unearthly and unsettled than they’ve ever attempted before.
This predilection for weightlessness also holds on the more pop-oriented songs. “The Skin and the Glove” shows another left turn, drawing on the MDMA-mangled haze of Madchester for an ecstatic yet cryptic song about the passage of time. It’s the record’s most straightforward pop moment, but it still shows Drab Majesty trying out new sounds, wringing emotion out of dream pop’s outer realms.
In the EP’s other vocal-led track, “Vanity,” Drab Majesty are at their most expansive, cushioning a meditation on misery in pillowy guitar lines and feather-light vocals from Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell. It’s an especially spacious and labyrinthine take on the duo’s shoegaze-esque style. As a latticework of guitar lines and reverb-smeared vocals builds toward a blurry cacophony, the border between DeMure and Goswell’s vocals and the noise around them smudges and swirls. Chaotic and unsettling but strangely beautiful, it’s the record’s most affecting moment, and a reminder that An Object in Motion is like little else that Drab Majesty have released, a version of gothic guitar music divined from the static of deep space radiation.
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