Here at Backseat Mafia, we have been lauding the dream pop aural landscapes Graywave has created through a series of singles released over the past year. Graywave – the nom de plume of West Midland’s multi-instrumentalist Jess Webberley – has now released an EP entitled ‘Planetary Shift’ through the boutique Brisbane label False Peak Records, and it delivers on a promise of exquisitely crafted songs that evoke a dream pop/shoegaze shimmer throughout.
Webberley states that this is an EP of two halves – the first representing light, the second, the dark.
Opening track ‘Dreaming’ sets off with a fine jangle: layers of reverberated guitars sparkle under Webberley’s gliding vocals. Webberley says:
The song itself is about wanting to do better. It’s about realising that the power to be whatever we want to be lies within ourselves. I wrote this when I was feeling particularly optimistic about forging my own path in life and found excitement in that.
There is a shoegaze wall of sound that propels the track with a brightness and verve.
‘Swallow’ has an impeccable driving force – the vocals are more melancholic and the sparkling instrumentation is forceful and cinematic – deep splashes of guitars and keys form a base with Webberley’s vocals sweeping magnificently across.
‘Swallow’ is about feeling a loss of control and losing trust within your own thoughts and actions. It’s about the way I feel when something bad happens that is out of my control – I tend to still blame myself even when I am not at fault and this song captures that. The meaning of this song also coincides with the theme of the EP; a feeling of inner turmoil and a shift in emotions.
The title track eschews the layered electronica with a more acoustic guitar sound that jangles high above a white noise bleed and Webberley’s voice is ethereal and haunting. There is an elegiac quality about the track – the vocals expressive and emotive.
‘Planetary Shift’ started out as an acoustic song which I planned to take no further than my guitar. After I finished writing it, I felt inspired to demo it properly and something about the production process clicked with me so I decided to go for it and mix it to include it in the EP. This track is intended to be stripped back and honest, it is a true display of my writing process and I wanted to include something that hasn’t been changed by going into the studio.
The track is also a fitting segue into the darker side of the EP, introduced by ‘Like Heaven’ where we see a drift away from lighter-textured dream pop into a darker shoegaze fugue – less structured and a denser sound: perhaps reflecting inner turmoil and doubt. There remains a poised and delicate shimmer:
The final track ‘Before’ has a Cure-like bass heavy spine with Arctic guitars chiming and an ominous timbre to the vocals. Webberley’s voice is ethereal: there is a hard edge and a distant, detached air while the instrumentation builds up to a crescendo.
‘Planetary Shift’ is an evocative, expressive EP filled with shimmer and sparkle while underpinned, as the EP moves into its second phase, with a gothic-tinged hardened edge. Webberley has the vocal strength and force of Garbage’s Shirley Manson applied to a shoegaze drive of MBV or Slowdive. The approach is unique and forms Graywave’s distinctive sound – there is no burying or disguising the vocal tracks: they form a perfect and integral part of the overall palette.