L.A. Trio Gypsum Just Dropped a Majestic, Elemental Debut Album
Gypsum, the L.A.-based trio who’ve just released their eponymous debut album, has a lineage of inspirations that stretches back to the ’70s (if not farther), yet their sweet spot is the intersection of indie rock and shoegaze/dreampop. Within seconds of opening track “Follow Me,” between the plucked guitar arpeggios and the smooth, silky harmonies of Sapphire Jewel (guitar), Anna Arboles (guitar), and Jessy Reed (percussion), my mind was racing back to the time when Curve and Lush and The Sundays et. al. roamed the earth.
The template set by its opening track remains intact over the course of this debut: a dreamy rich tapestry of deliberate, controlled group vocalizing; the slow mutation of ethereal guitars and powerful percussion; the steady flow of tempos that favor the middle whilst occasionally ramping up or slowing down, often with the walls of the same song.
“Snow White” may be the prototypical Gypsum song or, at least, the one that captures the spirit of the band in all its iterations. It’s a slow roil of strummed, echoed chords; guitar lines as delicate as the best of Tom Verlaine; a long Radiohead-like intro that chills into a two-chord drone of quiet menace; a lone voice, at first, mythologizing an erotic attraction that grows intensely as the drumming — practically as expressive as John Bonham and as equally important to this band’s aesthetic — kicks into hyperdrive.
You can — and will — get lost in these tracks. There’s so much atmosphere and otherness embedded herein: the Cocteau Twins vocal ululations that occasionally sneak into the rollicking “Lungs”; the way “Give It” meshes the motorik rhythms of early The Go-Betweens with a harmonized chorus that sounds like a madrigal; the mad rush of the shoegazing-at-the-stars wonder of “Kaleidoscope” — that you get swept away in its majesty.
“I think if you enjoy good melodies, lots of harmonies, and tons of vibey guitar vibes with dense chords and extensions,” Anna Arboles has said, “this music is for you. There’s definitely a lot of musical heavy lifting behind our songs, but I think we have packaged them in a way that is listenable and not pedantic.”
I have no doubt that there’s content here, though I can’t confirm that as I’ve yet to attend a lyric all the way through a song. Most of the time you get the gist of the tune from a captured word or phrase — the repetition of “what I want” on “Lungs”; the fear of death that permeates “beneath me, ice breaks” on “Gull Lake.” And in each case, it doesn’t truly matter. The devotional intensity of the band, locked in step, speaking to each other across and through their instruments, is enough. And let’s give it up to Jessy Reed who instantly advances to the head of the pack of great drummers. What occurs here isn’t just timekeeping; these drums and percussion instruments head the musical conversation and lift Gypsum out of an overcrowded indie/post-rock scene.
Gypsum’s debut album, Gypsum, is out now.
Photos by Wes O’Connor