Middle children know what it is to grow up under a double shadow. They learn to keep quiet, to shirk both responsibility and needs. They know how to assimilate into the motion around them. They know what it means to keep their faces blank.
We forget Luxembourg. The middle child of France and Germany, it hides in that double shadow, even speaks in the languages of its sisters. It was only a stepping stone along Hitler’s westward march. No wonder it keeps its head down.
Empty Songs by Blue Dressed Man (Luxembourg)
There’s music that seeps from Luxembourg–the city and the fog that parts around it–but try finding a singer-songwriter, or anyone who makes art about their ego. Luxembourg’s all mask. Its few humans hide behind ancient architecture and tree-studded hills. Its songs hold similar landscapes; what voices there are creep behind brambles and grass. Squint and they’ll vanish. But sit and wait for them to pass, and you might even glimpse something like a face, a few words.
Take Blue Dressed Man, the shadowy engineer of a 20-year vault filled with bizarre industrial machinery. As prolific as he is anonymous, this producer darts between straight dystopian nightmares and haunted, idiosyncratic whimsy. In “Strange Around,” from August release Empty Songs, curious metallic ghosts pitch and whirl around sheets of sad guitars and hard, hammering drums. This may be digital music, but it feels more like it’s powered by steam. Harsh, glinting metal moves at the whim of something hot and formless. A giant apparatus stirs by means of air.
The soft build of Blue Dressed Man’s latest songs, like “Railside,” suggest a return to the organic as whispers pile on top of echoed acoustic guitar. The ghosts return, but this time they’ve got human voices to play with. This time, they duck in and out of dark, wet percussive pits.
According to their progenitor, these melancholy landscapes supply “the necessary portion of sadness and rage”–as though, like our diets, our emotions were divided into daily recommended amounts. And maybe they are. For a balanced psyche, consume two to three servings of euphoria and despair each day. Take frequently of comfort. Sample angst and ennui sparingly.
Yumaque by Daily Vacation (Luxembourg)
Which brings us to serving two of your daily melancholy. While Daily Vacation in name might evoke the now-countless outfits in the U.S. that take their titles from expressions of leisure, in sound they’re more about drive than slack. The trio’s new album Yumaque (just ten days old now) devotes equal time to rail-pounding krautrock momentum as it does to wide-eyed post-rock awe. The LP’s title track lets bubbly waves of guitars wash over a drone that revolves like the secret voice of mountains. This isn’t shoegaze; it’s sky-gaze. It’s the sound of burning your eyes on the sun.
Whether contemplative (“The Sky Was the Sea, a Sunday Morning”) or violent (“Acid Texas Motorcycle”), it’s all kinds of lovely. While most instrumental post-rock records ooze out in one steady flow, Yumaque spins moods as wild and varied as the shoreline of a hurricane hotspot.
Summer Dreams EP by Alvin and Lyle (Luxembourg)
But while we’re here, we might as well end on a bit of sun. Alvin and Lyle might sound like a name more fitting for a 1950′s surf-pop duo, but that “glo-fi” tag hanging below their songs suggest the pair’s certainly up to the decade. And so does their hazed-out, dancey dream-pop (which isn’t quite chillwave and is certainly not ambient, as further tags suggest). The duo’s Summer Dreams EP is as easy and tropical as its title suggests, with layers of taffy-pulled synths piling atop big, crunchy drums.
Alvin and Lyle take contemplative inner motions and spin them outward. Smooth and sugary, but not without their mischief (just pull apart the lyrics), the songs on Summer Dreams imagine the ocean from deep within a landlocked nation. It’s that inherent yearning–beach music made inside forest country–that imbues Alvin and Lyle’s tropical moves with a nearly imperceptible touch of melancholy. It’s the feeling of living for something that you have to travel very far to be near.
Maybe that’s enough fog. Maybe the fall is bumming us out. Let’s dive down south next time around. Say, Argentina? Sure, why don’t we. @Sashageffen