Shrouded in a beautiful, bewildering haze, Domiciles, a psych-rock five-piece from Dunfermline, present their debut album – This Is Not A Zen Garden. No, it’s not. But what it is is an impressive collage of influences and styles, finely stitched together to create something truly wondrous. The band have been fine-tuning their craft since 2015, and it shows. Psych, shoegaze, krautrock and indie have all made their mark upon this album, but they’ve all been smudged at the edges until we’re left with a work of art and style that Domiciles command with an expertise way beyond their years.
Six Degree’s Of Separation sets the album in motion. A mysterious, cinematic intro leads way to a Slowdive-esque chord sequence, delivered by crunchy guitars and alluring synth lines. These elements, combined with the stomping, reverb-drenched drumming of Sean Harkins, had me moving my head in rhythm like a man possessed, or more charmed by the stunning soundscape. The song oozes style and mood, driven further home by the vocal work of Nick Young. His voice has a soft, soothing quality to it, layered with silky harmonies. Setting the tone for what’s to follow, it enters the stratosphere, with sci-fi synths adding yet another layer to this wall of captivating noise. They fill every inch with their nostalgic-cum-modern sound, whether its with huge reverb tails or sharp synths.
Moving into Bluer Than Blue, we’re introduced to electronic drum loops, straddled by a pure psych-rock sound reminiscent of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. It’s meditative, intoxicating and, yet again, spaced out. Punching in at just less than two and a half minutes does feel it leaving a little half baked, something unexpected in the psych genre. I had braced myself for it to be a long-winded, space tripping journey when it suddenly snapped to a close.
Domiciles are very diverse in this sense. Some of the tracks stick to the rule book, such as Sinking Sun; a beautifully dark and trippy piece, where the vocals are buried, the guitars drone and the atmosphere is heavy throughout. Other tracks, meanwhile, take those rules and scribble all over them with modern production techniques. Take The Rat, for example. At this point in the album, the style is par for the course, except they layer this song with thick sub-bass, more drum loops and electronic elements. It really leaves the feeling of familiar yet fresh. Like a film you swear you’ve seen before, but how could you? You’re watching it in the cinema for the first time.
Want-Need is a standout track. A stellar example of modernising shoegaze. The guitars feel like they’ve been ripped straight from My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, but when put alongside Domiciles much loved electronic soundscapes, the result is invigorating. It’s that luscious shoegaze we’ve grown familiar with, but it’s been run through photoshop. Its resolution has been increased, the contrast has been turned up, and the result is a piece that sounds altogether now while keeping one foot in the nineties. Not only is it a highlight, but it’s also an outlier, being the only song to feature female lead vocals, and they are divine. They weave in and out of the lazy/wavy guitars, thick with reverse delays and drowning in reverb, lessons learnt from the ten commandments of shoegaze.
The album rounds out with the intense journey of The Drug is Not Enough, arguably the band’s magnum opus up to this point in their career. This lethargic, massive odyssey of a track puts in bold everything that Domiciles do best, like a well-penned summary at the end of a thesis. The first half plays out as a homage to their psych forefathers, slow in pace, leaving me swaying to and forth, before crushing my ears with an all-out guitar/synth assault in its dying breaths. The drums are battered, the chords are driven into the ground, and the fuzz and reverb are running at full capacity. A song truly befitting of the duty of closing out a wonderful debut.
Domiciles have clearly worked hard to create what they have here. As I mentioned earlier, they’ve certainly taken their time to produce this collection of songs. They apparently locked themselves away in a cottage to focus their energy entirely on the writing and recording of this album, and I’m grateful they did. You can really feel the passion they have for this style, they embody it fully on this ten-track maiden-voyage, and I truly can’t wait to see where they take it next. Whether they keep us suspended in space for future releases, or turn the knobs down and take a more subtle approach, if they deliver it with the dedication and devotion they have here, it’ll surely live up to this honest, brilliant debut effort.
This Is Not A Zen Garden is set to be released on vinyl and all digital platforms on 16th August 2019 via Last Night From Glasgow. You can pre-order the album here.