On the surface Sun Airway’s Nocturne of an Exploded Chandelier is a shimmering collection of sun-drenched, noise-infused blissful pop, and in once sense this is wholly true – it’s an instantly gratifying and joyful record.
The first 60 seconds of Philadelphia pair’s debut LP lays out the stem of the album; swirling synth tones wash over as Jon Bathmus sings, “Welcome as a snowflake on the ocean, I look over, I see you there, drowning in the moonlight hours” – poetic lyrics, microscopic imagery, the sea, the moon and waves of melodious noises dominate the record. These elements are omnipresent. What does vary are the over-riding major-key melodies and the under-current of drum machine rhythms and the sometimes dubby, sometimes climbing baselines.
Bathmus’ vocal is instantly appealing, not because it’s impressively robust but the opposite – he mostly sings in mid-range like that of many bedroom pop artists, occasionally reaching to the top of his range, making the infectious and cheery tunes all the more sing-along while the swaths of shoegazy keyboard employed by bandmate Patrick Marsceill cocoon the beaming pop hooks.
The spiralling pop hook of ‘Oh, Naoka’ is washed over by woozy effects, spiked by intermittent clackety drum sounds as Bathmus strains successfully for some super high notes. This Naoka is a character from Norwegian Wood (by Japanese author Haruki Murakami), a book about loss and sexuality, and she is also the central character of ‘Waiting On You’, which ups the tempo while simultaneously billowing out with echoing harp and looped vocals.
Lead single ‘Put The Days Away’ is easily one of the finest slices of bliss-pop delivered by any band this year; engaging and life affirming on one level but you can feel the ennui has Bathmus sings, or almost exasperates, “Trying not to die is so tasking”, but as he breaths out he goes on to inspire, cumulating in a glittering crescendo while on the harmonious lullaby ‘Swallowed by the Night’ he sing “I’m just looking for the prefect sentence to keep us alive”, repeatedly and hypnotically. ‘Shared Piano’ and ‘American Mid West’ address broader political themes while the album closer ‘Five Years’ is more obtuse, a kaleidoscopic seven minutes of warped and looped ponderings.
On the whole then, Nocturne of an Exploded Chandelier won’t change your life but it will make improve your Winter with glowing electronic pop and considered potent themes.