It’s been a while, but A Sunny Day in Glasgow are back with Sea When Absent, their third proper album. Sea When Absent situates itself in the science fiction that is life in 2014 and goes looking for what new myths might speak to us in our post-Fukushima, post-quantum, post-everything world. Recorded over a year and half with Jeff Zeigler (War on Drugs, Kurt Vile) at his Uniform Recording Studios in Eraserhood Philadelphia, the album is a conscious move away from the bright-dark, ambient maximalism of the band’s acclaimed double LP, Ashes Grammar, and a move towards a post-millennial, up-front pop sound. Sea When Absent is simultaneously A Sunny Day in Glasgow at their most accessible, most insane, and most rock.
Appropriately for new beginnings, Sea When Absent marks a number of firsts for an ASDiG—it’s the first album recorded in a “real” studio by someone who isn’t Ben or Josh, the first album not written mostly by Ben, the first album with next-to-no reverb, and the first time in ASDiG’s history that it has existed as an actual band (ie, not just Ben or Josh playing everything). There was also a conscious effort to get away from aspects of recording that have defined this band in the pasts—namely heavily reverbed and buried vocals [ed.—they never sound buried to Ben]. Vocalists Jen Goma and Anne Fredrickson have beautiful voices and it was time to explore the possibilities of their abilities/talents. Jen took on a central role in the making of this album, stepping up to write most of the lyrics and melodies. Annie also contributed melodies throughout the album and put her classical cello training to use adding string arrangements. Since 2009 Ben has called Sydney, Australia home and while he was down under, multi-instrumentalist/backup vocalist/engineer/jack-of-all-trades Josh Meakim was “Our Man in Philly”, overseeing the recording sessions and adding all of the musical and production ideas he usually does. The distance between Ben and the rest of the band also forced novel ways of building songs from across the world. Bassist Ryan Newmyer, in Brooklyn, was tasked with deconstructing and rebuilding several songs in his own way—“Oh, I’m a Wrecker (What to Say to Crazy People)” bears the fruit of this tact. Holding it all together is drummer Adam Herndon. Adam is Sea When Absent’s alchemist—weaving between, and often reconciling, the colossal boom of electronic beats (see “Golden Waves” or “Double Dutch”) and the subtle elegance of a drum kit in a room (see “The Body, It Bends” or “The Things They Do to Me”).
But what about the songs? “Byebye, Big Ocean (The End)” gets things immediately going with a visceral assault of guitar and rhythm from which the listener is thrown into the madhouse power-pop of “In Love With Useless (The Timeless Geometry in the Tradition of Passing)”. “Crushin’” is probably as close to a Prince-recording-for-Stax-Records sound that ASDiG will ever get, while “MTLOV (Minor Keys)” is classic ASDiG minus the reverb, with the beat turned way up. “Never Nothing (It’s Alright [It’s Ok])” is a quiet storm “Sympathy for the Devil” (literally, Hades) and “Golden Waves” takes Janet Jackson’s “Love With Never Do (Without You)” and gives it a bad dose of e.
Between releasing Ashes Grammar in late 2009 and Autumn, Again in late 2010, ASDiG spent the better part of that year on tour. The 6 members in this band returned to 6 different Ithacas and the various dramas and adventures they’ve endured since then inform a lot of Sea When Absent.
But 2014 is also just an insane time to be alive. Dominant narratives have broken down and the stories we tell ourselves have never been more up-for-grabs. It’s all happening and A Sunny Day in Glasgow want to be as simultaneously everywhere and nowhere as the rest of us. Sea When Absent is ASDiG’s story for the milieu—a fever-dream about the now (or maybe a lucid dream about the fever-now) and a future possible…set in pop-major.