ALBUM REVIEW: “Shine Your Light”

GapDream_AlbumArtGabe Fulvimar emerged on the scene last year under musical moniker Gap Dream with his eponymous debut, a psych-y, garage-y record that immediately hooked critics and listeners alike. Now he’s returning with his sophomore release, Shine Your Light, produced by Bobby Harlow in conjunction with Fulvimar himself. The ten-track album, available via Fullerton, California’s Burger Records, sees Gap Dream taking a turn with his sound—he’s developed his fuzzy pop-rock into a synth-heavy dance extravaganza.

The album opener and title track, “Shine Your Light,” is immediately futuristic. The sonically shimmery and twinkling backdrop is a stark contrast from Fulvimar’s drowsy vocals; the whole album, in fact, is a give and take between groovy and lackadaisical. “Chill Spot,” for example, the second track on the album, has a particularly swanky beat and bass line, but Fulvimar’s West Coast-y drawl and stoner lyrics (“I’m trying to find a chill spot just to organize my mind”) keep it down to earth.

While many of the lyrics on the record could come off as trite, flower child commandments (“Allow your heart to chase the dark away” from “Shine Your Light,” or “Please shine your love/Like the rays of the sun/Through the clouds above” from “Shine Your Love”), there are a few very notable exceptions. “Immediate Life Sentence,” for example, is a scathing commentary about a really shitty girlfriend. It concludes with Fulvimar’s assertion that “I don’t need to get laid that bad/I’ll just stay home and get high.” I mean, damn, that’s cold, but also extremely relatable.  On “Love Is Not Allowed” Fulvimar seems to reconcile the two points of view, seeming wistful about his inability to access intimacy in a world where there’s just no place for it, urging us to save it for another time.  The beats almost approach those of dreamy teen pop anthems from the fifties, wrapped up tight in swirling layers of synths.

Other highlights include “Snow Your Mind,” and the second to last track, “You’re From The Shadow.” The former is sultry but contemplative, a bit reminiscent of Blood Orange’s aesthetic. The latter, on the other hand, has a significantly heavier, more commanding sound than the rest of the album that might be a little leftover inspiration from Fulvimar’s days as a member of the Black Keys.

But perhaps the most telling track regarding Fulvimar’s evolution as a performer is the album’s lead single, “Fantastic Sam”.  Sonically, it’s an obvious choice to re-introduce Gap Dream to the world, with catchy hand-clap percussion, an insistent guitar riff, and wriggling synths.  But the lyrics are almost meta: “Do you know how to think, how to feel? / When you open your eyes, do I seem real?”  When sung by a man whose image borders on retro caricature, it begs the listener to examine what it means to embrace Gap Dream’s aesthetic, daring everyone to prove that they get it or admit that they don’t.

As a whole, Shine Your Light is the musical equivalent of getting abducted by pothead aliens who end up sharing their intergalactic weed with you (or the video game equivalent of such an adventure) . There are obvious psych-rock influences (most strikingly in “Shine Your Love,” a regal sounding number that brings The Kinks or The Beatles to mind), and Fulvimar clearly has some potent guitar hooks up his sleeve that inevitably get your head bobbing.  It’s a bit unfortunate that we don’t hear as much of them as we did on on Gap Dream’s debut.  Fulvimar’s effortlessly catchy melodies are still in effect, but there are too many moments where they become obscured over the course of Shine Your Light’s ten tracks.  Even if Fulvimar strays far from his familiar strengths as he explores new ones, his effort to change directions is a noble one.

For more of Gabe’s personal musings, check out his interview with audiofemme here

The album comes out 11/26 on Burger. If you can’t wait until then, listen to “Love Is Not Allowed”, here via Soundcloud:

INTERVIEW: Gap Dream’s Gabe Fulvimar

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Gabe Fulvimar of Gap Dream.  Photo by Steele O'Neal, courtesy Pitch Perfect PR/Burger Records.
Gabe Fulvimar of Gap Dream. Photo by Steele O’Neal, courtesy Pitch Perfect PR/Burger Records.

Gabe Fulvimar neglected to bring a towel, toothbrush or dental floss on a cross-country tour with Burger Records’ Caravan of the Stars, but he departed Fullerton, CA with a few choice essentials.  “I forgot everything, I just brought…I brought a backpack full of underwear, that’s all I brought.  Fuck,” he laughs when we catch up with him via phone.  He is somewhere between Olympia and Vacouver, and his companions on the road are traveling even lighter.  “Lee [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Rickard, half the founding duo of Burger Records] didn’t bring no underwear.  He doesn’t wear underwear, he doesn’t wear socks.  He is free of socks and underwear.  He has unleashed those burdens from his back.”

Fulvimar, better known in certain circles by his musical moniker Gap Dream, isn’t letting his lack of toiletries get to him.  He’s riding high on the impending release of his second LP, Shine Your Light, out 11/12/13 on Burger Records, the Fullerton based imprint that built a reputation on releasing eccentric lo-fi, garage, and punk cassettes.  When asked what he’s most excited about, he enthusiastically responds “I’m excited about all of it!  I’m excited about the release date, I’m excited about the catalogue number, I’m excited about the cover, I’m excited about the little piece of paper that’s gonna go around the cover… oh it’s crazy.”  M Wartella, famed NYC-based illustrator known for his work on Cartoon Network’s Mad Magazine, designed the holographic artwork, having recently hooked up with Burger labelmates King Tuff to animate the band’s trippy video for “Sun Medallion”.  “He’s one of the most brilliant artistic minds of our time.  It’s gonna look like Lisa Frank shit on mushrooms.  It’ll be sick,” says Fulvimar.

As mind-bending as the cover art sounds, we’re not gonna lie – it’s the music that we’re most excited about.  Gap Dream’s warped synths, vintage-tinged riffs, and intricate, infectious drum rhythms left us humming material from the self-titled debut since it came out last year.  In the interim between records, Gap Dream released swanky singles “Chill Spot” and “Fantastic Sam”.  While the newer tracks stay well within Gap Dream’s wheelhouse, it’s fun to hear Fulvimar amping up the synths. “I love synthesizers and I’ve always loved them, and I’m always going back and forth between guitars and synths.  Right now I’m in a synth phase,” he says.  “I just got a Moog Little Phatty that Burger bought for me, and I’m using that on the tour, not playing guitar, and it sounds great.  It’s the best sounding thing on the planet.  I love it.”  Fulvimar’s reverence for synths ensures he’s not in any danger of treading into cheesy 8-bit territory on tour or on the new record.  “It’s a classy instrument.  You’re supposed to treat it right.  You’re not supposed to treat it like Nintendo.”

Other than synth obsession, there’s another factor which stands to have a huge influence on Shine Your Light.  Fulvimar moved from Cleveland to California last December.  “The new record has more of a West Coast sound than the last one, which is funny because I didn’t think the first one had any sort of West Coast sound,” Fulvimar says.  In Fullerton, he’s fully integrated into Burger culture.  “I’m living in a storage space,” he says.  “We have a good time.  We work on Burger stuff and Gap Dream stuff all the time.  It’s a great place to be.  Everyone’s great, it’s like we’re a family living there.  I love being there.”

During the recording of the record, Rickard and Sean Bohrman (co-founder of Burger) were constantly exposing Fulvimar to obscure music.  “At any given moment I was hearing something different.  We’re all hanging out, listening to music, you know, enjoying rock n roll.  So it came out in the songs.  It’s interesting to listen to that collection of songs and see how all over the map I was at the time.  But you know, it definitely changed the sound.  I dunno in what way, if it was good or bad, but it did.”  These new influences provided ample inspiration for Fulvimar to take Gap Dream in some new directions.  “I don’t like to do the same thing twice.  I’m always trying to do something that I haven’t done yet when I write songs.  I’m always trying to break new ground and trying to make something that I haven’t heard yet, I guess. I’m just trying to make songs that I want to hear.”

Gap Dream is poised to go a long way with Burger’s backing.  Rickard is literally at the helm on the Caravan of Stars tour; Fulvimar says he’s “driving us all over the country, making sure we don’t, you know… fall into peril.  He’s like our spirit guide, he’s the best of the best, he knows his way around every city in the country.  He’s the man.”   He met Rickard on the first Caravan of Stars bus tour, back in 2010.  “That’s when I was introduced to Burger.  And ever since then, it was me ordering tapes from them, and getting really stoked on ‘em and excited about what they were doing, and then it turned into me submitting my own stuff.”  The label put out Gap Dream’s first LP and it gained momentum among fans and critics interested in its breezy, psych-tinged sound.  “It just kinda took off based on the fact that Burger put the tape out, [and] people were interested.  They got me out of the house pretty much.”

For someone who has been playing guitar and recording his own music for nearly two decades, there’s a level of modesty involved in those statements.  Fulvimar remains modest in discussing his musical background, as well.  “I started playing guitar when I was in like fourth grade.  I never really took it seriously enough to learn anything as far as theory, but I always recorded myself and always found ways to do things with limited means.  I guess you could classify me as ‘studio nerd’.”

Gap Dream doesn’t come across as your typical bedroom recording project, and in a live setting it takes on a life of its own.  When I saw Gap Dream at now-defunct Brooklyn DIY space Big Snow Buffalo Lounge during CMJ 2012 it was a four-piece rock n’ roll outfit, but for Burger’s Caravan the line-up has shifted again.  “Now we’re trying to hammer it down so we do have a set lineup, just because it’s becoming a pain in the ass to deal with that every time we go on the road.  We don’t have a drummer on this tour, we’re just using a drum machine.  It has more of a vibe like the record does.”

Assisted by Bobby Burger on bass, Fulvimar’s “buddy” Corey on guitar, and a drum machine, Fulvimar explains “It’s a groovier set.  It’s got more of a dance feel to it and it’s more chill, more angular.  It’s fun, people have been getting into it.  We just did our first show last night, and it’s been a positive reception and fun, you know.  We’ve been having a good time.”  That good time is an essential motivating force behind Fulvimar’s project.  “I love playing.  Like, we love playing for people and getting their minds off how they owe rent or whatever.  We just like to spread a good vibe and hopefully, you know, make some dough in the process.”

Along with The Growlers, Cosmonauts, Habibi, Pangea, White Fang and Colleen Green, Fulvimar and crew are about halfway through the tour, which rolls into New York tonight for a sold-out show at Bowery Ballroom.  That performance, and the tour as a whole, is sure to get folks talking about the new LP.  “I feel like if you love to play something and if you love what you’re doing it’s gonna come out sounding good, because you’re gonna put the care into that is necessary.  It’s like cooking.  It’s like anything.”  He’s got his backpack of underwear, his best friends, and one other essential item: his signature yellow-lensed sunglasses.  “I mean, I just started wearing ‘em because I liked ‘em.  I had a bunch of different colors and my actual glasses broke and I needed something on my face so started to wear those all the time, and they just kinda stuck.”  With the release of Shine Your Light, Gap Dream is similarly destined to become a permanent fixture – a little retro, a little brazen, and unassailably cool.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]