Nausea by Craft Spells (Album)

7 August, 2014 in Music Reviews

Craft Spells

Craft Spells transitions from bedroom dream pop to calming orchestral indie, after ditching social media and retreating from city life

Craft Spells-Nausea

raft Spells is the project of John Paul Vallesteros. After releasing his previous album Vallesteros moved to San Francisco, in hope of finding a niche in the bay area scene. Instead he found DJ night crowds and garage rock. Disillusioned with what he discovered, he slipped into a creative slump and retreated to his parents’ home in the suburbs of California. Along with writers block, Vallesteros had an addiction to social media. Realising this, he began to cut himself off from the net and surrounded himself in music and writing. In this time he abandoned his guitar and focused solely on piano, on which all the songs from his new album Nausea were written.

Craft Spells’ previous album was easily defined as bedroom dream pop. However from the opening title track of Nausea, it is clear that the dynamic has completely changed, with the first few seconds of the song indicating a complete shift in genre. The synth and drum machines have disappeared. Instead, well planned orchestral indie takes its place. The echoed vocals and delayed, intricate, hazy guitars invite comparisons with the likes of Tame Impala. It also indicates a completely different approach in recording; it sounds much more instrumentally rounded that previous efforts.

Komorebi is a Japanese word that translates as the way that sun filters through the trees; the interplay between the light and the leaves. This charming term titles a song that’s just as fitting, one surrounded by atmospheric, Japanense-style string arrangements. It also reaches towards early Death Cab For Cutie, both vocally and lyrically; something which is echoed throughout the album. The big difference between Craft Spells and Death Cab is the musicality of the songs, with the former tapping into different musical cultures that other bands have not.

Breaking The Angle Against The Tide was the first single from Nausea. It has a much quicker pace than the majority of the album and wouldn’t sound out of place in the background of an American teen drama. However, it’s a song that is in part about social media addiction, something that the many teens suffer from. ‘You’ve wasted too much of my time’ Vallesteros sings, once again accompanied by an airy spring arrangement. It’s an interesting spin on songs talking about technology and social media, which is clearly a growing concern among many musicians.

Vallesteros’ break from social media and the hubbub of city life was clearly a huge influence over the pace and feel of the album. Nausea is full of beautiful string arrangements, calming vocals and intricately layered guitar parts. It’s a relaxing voyage, though at times it is difficult to tell where one song begins and another ends. The other problem is that the genre of music Craft Spells now delves into is a well sailed boat. Nausea is by no means a bad addition to Vallesteros’ portfolio, but it doesn’t venture far enough into the depths of emotion fuelled indie-pop to really excel.

Verdict: Soothing and beatific indie-pop

Tilly Dowman

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