Album Review: Visceral, free-form electronic perfection: Sea Change’s new album ‘Mutual Dreaming’ drops tomorrow via Shapes Recordings

The Breakdown

Shapes Recordings 8.0

The highly anticipated new album from Norwegian producer and singer Sea Change, ‘Mutual Dreaming’, is set for release this Friday through Shapes Recordings.

Sea Change is the project of Norway’s Ellen A. W. Sunde. Since her debut album, 2015’s Breakage, Sunde’s sound has mutated from atmospheric dream-pop to shapeshifting electronica without a change to her creative vision. No matter the style, Sunde pushes and stretches it into new shapes and forms. This distinct musical vision continues on ‘Mutual Dreaming.’

Sunde’s previous album INSIDE was inspired by the club culture of Los Angeles and Berlin, where after spending time exploring those hazy spaces, the artist created her own sonic version of that feeling. ‘Mutual Dreaming’ however, is very different. Sunde had just started work on the album – after relocating back to the coastal town of Kristiansand, Norway – when lockdown hit. So, in the absence of previous inspirations – mainly the overstimulation and colour of hectic urban spaces – ‘Mutual Dreaming’ was given life with a distinct absence of input from the outside world. Sunde did enjoy this: “It was very quiet. I could really concentrate on making new music. In a way, it was starting from scratch. The vibe was very explorative, and I had fun making it. It was easier to dive into it when there weren’t any distractions”.

Sunde was keen to explore the physical side of music in the songs, the way it interacts with the body: “Music can be very primal. When you are going clubbing and dancing you can lose yourself in your own headspace, and be more in time with your body”. Beats drive the songs and make them careen along, like on opening track ‘I Put My Hand Into A Fist’, where pulse-like synths and snares are in a constant state of flux. ‘Is There Anybody’ cries out in beautiful, lonely desperation, with warm, womb-like synths and fractured, wistful vocals.

“Music can be very primal. When you are going clubbing and dancing you can lose yourself in your own headspace, and be more in time with your body”. -Sea Change

The music plays out like raw, freely-flowing ideas. About this effect, Sunde says: “It was liberating for me, to not think things through too much. To be able to just go where the song could take me. This album is more deconstructed and very intuitive.”

This deconstructed approach is apparent in the lyrics, which were written first as filler to suit the sound, then later reworked to serve its mood. The result gives a stream-of-consciousness, visceral feel. ‘That’s Us’ and ‘OK’ feature dark, twisted, reverberating synths, with disembodied vocals that beckon the listener forth. This is fractured, rhythmic electronic music at its best – each track morphs into the next, never losing danceability or a sense of groove. And the mood transforms almost imperceptibly from song to song, with texture and tone perfectly engineered so that they almost feel physical.

‘Never Felt’ rises and falls sensually, yet never loses the fundamental urgency of its beat. The seduction continues, as the magnetism of ‘Night Eyes’ slowly leads into heavier territory and a return to the echoing pulse. The beautiful murkiness moves restlessly around the album, fading in then fading out, leaving the listener to discover their own meaning.

Title track ‘Mutual Dreaming’ swells gently yet grandly, its galloping beats awakening the senses once more, to an eventual slowing as final track – the heady, cinematic ‘Rituals’ – not so much closes out the album as suddenly shuts it down. Sunde herself says she imagines the visuals in the sounds, like a film, which makes absolute sense as the album progresses, and the appeal to the listener’s imagination (and the desire to get up and move) becomes irresistible.

Making music that often conveys the emotional over the rational – less something thought, more something felt – is really the backbone of this release. Taking some inspiration from the dreamspace of club music, Sea Change’s songs come from that shadowy place in the sub-conscious: Subtle, rhythmically infectious and delivered through fractured, hallucinogenic electronica. For a record that manages to be both enigmatic and elusive, it is at the same time so very compelling.

‘Mutual Dreaming’ is set for release on Friday Feb 11th via Shapes Recordings.

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