by Dalvin Aboagye (@dalvinandhobbes)
If you asked me to condense what Floating Room’s False Baptism is all about in the shortest way possible, one word comes to mind: spellbinding. In their sophomore outing, the Portland-based outfit — made up of vocalists and guitarists Maya Stoner and Kyle Bates, bassist Alec van Staveren and drummer Sonia Weber — build on the intimate soundscape they introduced us to in their 2016 freshman LP Sunless. The vibes are almost mystical; the synth-heavy beats that permeate each track manage to find their way into every nook and cranny of your memory. There’s sentimentality to False Baptism. The eight-track LP remains relatively short — the entire album clocks in at around half an hour long — but the imprint it leaves behind is hard to ignore. It’s not something that can easily be erased by tuning your ears to something else, but rather demands another playback regardless of setting.
The test that many acts have to pass if they are to stand out in the long term is whether they can remain open to change while still retaining their original core that drew you to them. They have to be pliable, but still able to get through the usual wear and tear stemming from years of creative fatigue. Luckily for Floating Room, they’ve spent the last couple of years since Sunless forging this resolve. The absurdist musings of the intro track “Dog” acts as the perfect prologue. The Bandcamp page for the album goes into detail on how the esoteric intro track “captures the very human experience of feeling limited by someone else.” The parameters are perfectly set for the next half hour. Despite there being little to no crossfading between tracks, the mood alone is enough to make going from one song to another feel gapless. “Seashell” and “Soft” couple up exquisitely, offering a brief break from the bustle of a full-on breakdown.
“Acid Queen” turns the dial up a few notches with spectacular results. Here we go from the pseudo-psychedelic ponderings of Stoner’s ambiguous lyrics layered on top of the synth-laden production to a wonderfully irreverent post-punk blitz that mercilessly invades your ears. The shift is gradual enough to not be too jarring but packs enough of a punch to leave a noticeable mark. The recovery from that kind of blow leaves you a little bit disoriented, but it isn’t unfamiliar. During an average sit-down with False Baptism, you’d be hard pressed not to find yourself finding links to the music of yesteryear. Whether just by a matter of the genre conventions or from random mind association, Floating Room benefits from unintentionally presenting themselves as a more refined version of what we can only assume could be their influences. They exhibit too much restraint in their drums and distortion to be in the same lane as Sleigh Bells, but at the same time their deft use of electronic accoutrements puts them at a spot quite far from, say, Mazzy Star. It’s a safe bet that pays off, but never at the expense of experimentation.
The spacious breaks return with the next two songs “Friend” and “Lie.” We’re drenched in the ethereal melodies and chord progressions of Stoner and Bates’ creation as the coupling submerges us back into crystal clear waters. Van Staveren’s bass and Weber’s drums provide the backbone for what easily could have come off as too out there. Her percussion work looms over the melodies at the right points so not to sound domineering. His bass is a necessary anomaly; you know it’s essential to any song, you just can’t explain why. “Pure” is the extraneous interlude that is engrossing but serves no other purpose than to prep us for the epilogue that is “Falling Room.” The gloominess of the final song provides a proper bookend to a storied collection of tracks. The fun isn’t being cut short here. Think of it more like a kid winding down after a long day of play, and the sun is now hovering over the horizon as it sets.
If you took the time to listen to Sunless before listening to False Baptism, you know Floating Room has had it all along. They don’t waddle on their way to the end of the pool or hobble haphazardly to the finish line. If you couldn’t tell from this second walk around the block, they’re graceful. When you maintain said grace, everything else just falls into place.
Floating Room's False Baptism is out June 22nd via Good Cheer Records.