The debut from Montreal‚Äôs Bodywash is an album that sounds lovely for casual listening, but after focused listening reveals deeper pockets of brilliance. In the past couple of decades the MP3 audio format, much in the same way as CDs and cassettes, has allowed for a viable "listen and run" approach. Digital music has offered tremendous convenience but has also encouraged less immersive music listening. With the emergence of many lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, now is the perfect time to settle in and get deeply immersed into a full-length piece of music. Comforter is a work full of familiar and, yes, comforting sounds, and it is a great place to practice immersive listening.
The layers of sound and instrumentation are the true magic, with the vocals overlaying much of the music for a quiet and hazy effect. A consistently relaxed yet upbeat energy supports hypnotic harmonies and atmospheric melodies, affirming its suggestive title. Life imitates art on opener "Reverie:" the song was written while member Chris Steward was delirious with fever while working in a claustrophobically small and dark rehearsal space, ultimately being written with an underlying motorik rhythm suggesting urgency and hinting at a need for release. From here, comfort is provided in waves of textured guitar, layered electronics and gauzy vocals, offering a relaxing float through subtle soundscapes.
It is tempting to categorize it merely as shoegaze or dream pop, both styles are heavily present on the album. A casual listener fond of these genres will enjoy this just based on that alone, but there are enough twists and turns here that warrant attention and will enrich the attentive listener. In the midst of tranquil guitar and quiet vocals are splashes of spacey electronics ("Paradisiac"), homages to the '80s ("Eye to Eye") and forays into electronic '90s ("Comforter"). More listens reveal previously unnoticed nuances such as interwoven vocal harmonies, emotive passages, and diverse use of instruments and effects that add new dimensions on each listen.
It is obvious this work was crafted with dedication to their art, and the band have had time to hone their craft. Having started in 2014 as college students, the album was recorded over a span of two years and released in 2019. Bodywash captures a mood, and capture it very well. The most optimal experience for me has been on vinyl with a good set of speakers, but headphones work. Tune everything out for the perfect transportation to a blissful sonic dimension, somewhere between the onset of sleep and dream.