Album Review: Nik Brinkman’s debut ‘Secret Stairs’ is an elegant showcase of glittering dreamy dream pop exhibits.


The Breakdown

'Secret Stairs' is a stunning debut: a collection of sparkling jewels that glitter with a melancholic sheen, while featuring glorious pop vignettes delivering melody and an ethereal grace. There is a barbed-wire spine throughout the delicate beauty crafted by Brinkman's vocals: a deft touch of vinegar amongst the sweetest of sounds.
Declared Goods 9.2

Opening with an instrumental with a spoken dialogue in the track ‘Silent Cities’, the crystalline beauty of New Zealander Nik Brinkman‘s new album ‘Secret Stairs’ become instantly evident. With the shimmering elegance of M83, ‘Silent Cities’ is evocative: bringing to life those late night long distance calls that are filled with yearning and isolation across a neon-lit divide.

Single ‘Candy’ (premiered by Backseat Mafia earlier this year) has the languorous, snarling indifferent vocals of The Jesus and Mary Chain mixed with a dreamy, multicoloured haze that creates an absolutely delicious piece of punky psychedelia. Hazy reverb and flange soaked instrumentation waltzes in a trippy fugue while Brinkman’s vocals echo in the distance with a kind of studied insolence filled with a satisfying attitude.

A mesmerising, swirling organ start, a wailing siren in the distance and jangling crunchy guitars combine together to create something quite celestial…bigger than Jesus, as the lyrics say. It really is the most enjoyable velvet dream pop sound with a touch of sandpaper and a swipe of acid. According to Brinkman,

‘Candy’ is a dreamy swirling pop song written about a deep love and admiration for someone in your life. The feeling of bliss, and of it being greater than anything else.

The dream pop sound and romantic expressions provide a brilliant counterpoint Brinkman’s vocals which evoke that late night/early morning weariness of a life burdened by the vicissitudes of existence on a mortal plane.

The languid cool continues to drip with an acerbic edge in ‘Halloween’ with its acoustic guitar crunch and louche vocals: shimmering and sparkling like a jewel.

‘Sugarland’’ is another anthemic classically formed beauty.

The crystalline guitars form a crisp, crunchy background to the dreamy haze of the song with its recurring riffs and floaty atmosphere. Brinkman’s magical vocals are evocative and distant: the melody indelible and the air psychedelic and hypnotic. This is a gorgeous piece of ethereal dream pop:

‘The Beach’ is filled with an optimistic melancholia as Brinkman displays an innocent romanticism – you’ve got sparkles in your eyes tonight – over jangling guitars that ripple and circle, whereas ‘Open Roads’ has a darker thrum with warbling, weaving synths and crunchy guitars and a hypnotic flow.

The golden thread throughout this album is the sense of deep yearning and sky scraping melodies. ‘Heaven’ again recalls JAMC at their acoustic best: perfectly formed chords and melodies that are indelible and brilliant.

‘Rollercoaster’ features guest vocals from Alma Leta which adds a soft and velvet counterpoint to Brinkman’s world weary barbed wire-touched vocals over a shoegaze drive that thunders insistently underneath with a hint of feedback, all in under two minutes.

The final title track is a short instrumental with a cathedral like atmosphere: stately, echoing and enigmatic.

‘Secret Stairs’ is a stunning debut: a collection of sparkling jewels that glitter with a melancholic sheen, while featuring glorious pop vignettes delivering melody and an ethereal grace. There is a barbed-wire spine throughout the delicate beauty crafted by Brinkman’s vocals: a deft touch of vinegar amongst the sweetest of sounds.

Out through the inimitable Declared Goods label, you can download the album through the link below or through the usual download/streaming sites here.

Brinkman is a photographer/musician born and based in Wellington, New Zealand. Much of his inspiration is drawn from cinematic films and surrealist painters. His passion is taking photos at locations that have a surreal and magical feel to them, often capturing images during dusk or night time. He enjoys discovering places that are not easily recognisable to the general public and is drawn to, architecture, colour and mystery.

Brinkman also spends time producing music for others, including Josie Moon, Alma Leta, Beach Blue and has had a number of projects such as Junica, Over The Atlantic (Carpark Records), Physical, Psychic Powers and Bright Music. Nik has toured and played shows with Beach House, New Order, Ladyhawke, The Naked And Famous, Foster The People, Soko and Yumi Zouma

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