Flowing Fades is the second Saccades album from The KVB’s Nicholas Wood and is out this week via Fuzz Club Records. Where Wood’s work in The KVB (Invada Records) trades in minimalist post-punk/coldwave, the Manchester-based artist’s solo material under the Saccades moniker is an exercise in escapist psychedelic pop.
On Flowing Fades we find a world of blissed-out synths, languid carefree guitars, dreamy vocals and influences that range from J.G. Ballard and Serge Gainsbourg to 80s dream pop and yacht-rock. “I began to properly work on this album after returning from The KVB’s North American Tour in late 2019, my head filled with new inspiration for this project and a clear idea on how this album should sound”, Wood remembers: “I wanted to create something soothing and immersive. Music for escapism, which can be listened to at sunrise or sunset. Even though it’s lighter and mellower than my usual output, I feel like there are strong hints of melancholia in there too, reflecting the world in which it was created.” With the bulk of the album written whilst Wood was cooped up in his apartment over lockdown, the album inevitably reflects the social unrest that was unfolding outside. The title is taken from a 2011 film by Luke Fowler about the psychiatrist R.D. Laing: “Originally it was just a working title but in the end I felt it worked with the fractured nature of the characters in the song”.
Opening with ‘Islands Past’, a lysergic guitar-pop number is the link between Flowing Fades and the 2017 self-titled debut. He explains “it’s a song about the effect nostalgia and memory has on our lives. Trying to move forward but knowing that the past is always there behind you,” Wood says. It’s the bridging song, binding the two albums. ‘On Your Mind’ adds a disco beat and tenacity to washed vocals to create a heady mixture, and then ‘All Divided Selves’ is “about two people who spend every week falling out and then getting back together.” Seemingly two halves of the same whole, swathed in lush melodies and a simple backbeat which drives the beauty of the track. ‘Like Everyday’ is about “the idea of someone living their life through watching another person’s façade of luxury”. Reading stories of people spying on their neighbours during lockdown, Wood imagined this all taking place in a “Ballard-esq world of paranoia, isolation and opulent high-rises set against a fizzy synth-pop soundtrack”. Featuring Kat Day on backing vocals, it does what it says on the tin.
The late-night ballad ‘Tonight We Can Expect The Same’ could have come from label mates The Underground Youth’s latest offering; acoustic guitar driven and the presence of unrequited love hovering overhead. The hazy four-to-the-floor euphoria of ‘Breezy’ is a song “about the feeling of being carefree and enjoying the moment, even if it’s only for a few seconds, while the world around you falls apart”. The synth driven track would fit perfectly as a soundtrack to a driving scene, just insert your preferred backdrop. ‘Day Dreamer’ offers washed out shoegaze vibes and imagines “a pandemic of apathy sweeping the world, where after being bored for so long, everyone is content to keep doing nothing forever.” A curious sentiment evidently impacted by current times where even the seemingly positive sounding carries darker undercurrents. ‘Older Than Tomorrow’ is dreamy from the offset, its atonal bridge making it stand apart, hauntingly beautiful – instant goosebumps.
Raising the tempo, Wood wrote ‘Heat’ “during the sweltering nights of last summer in the stuffy flat that I was living and working in”. Influenced by a mixture of early house music and yacht rock, “it’s a song about missing playing live shows and touring, the buzz of the crowd and the connections that are made at gigs.” Life on the road being something Wood admits he “took for granted, now it’s not possible” – having spent the last decade touring pretty much non-stop around Europe, North and Latin America, Asia and South Africa with The KVB. It lives up to its name and makes you want to dance and sweat. ‘Endless Spring’ is an instrumental interlude invoking pleasant beach imagery before title track ‘Flowing Fades’ combines parts of all the tracks that have preceded it. Concluding ‘Lady Blue’ is an ode to Serge Gainsburg that’s shot through with dystopian themes; “I did my best to recreate the orchestra strings on Gainsburg’s ‘Histoire de Melody Nelson’ using various string synths, including my Elka Rhapsody, which I hadn’t used for years. The lyrics are about someone going to bed and knowing the apocalypse is about to begin and not knowing if they will see the morning.”
Flowing Fades is unlike anything else. Change runs through the album and can be felt in one song from the next as styles are seamlessly incorporated into one another. It offers escapism of the finest sort, Wood using the strangeness of these current days as a launch for something special.