REVIEW: LAKE ~ THE WORLD IS REAL

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The first thought that crossed my mind after listening to The World Is Real, was how the album just didn’t feel real. At this point it’s probably impossible to tell if my reaction was a genuine gut rejoinder, or if I was simply influenced by the title. But my gut right now is telling me that indeed LAKE’s The World is Real, feels like a lucid dream.

On one side of the spectrum you have Circular Doorway, recorded in a handful of days at the Anacortes Unknown studio.  The songs were largely written in studio or on the steps outside, in an almost off the cuff fashion. The final result, while undeniably LAKE, was sonically different from anything they’d recorded before. On the other side of the spectrum you have The World Is Real, recorded at K-Records’ infamous Dub Narcotic Studio in Olympia, in a longer time period. Due in part to Lindsay Schief’s broken ankle, this album was well rehearsed, some of the songs had been played live at least as far back as August of 2011. The process for which these two albums were recorded couldn’t be more different, and the same can be said for the albums sounds.

For all it’s diversity in instrumentation and unique structure, Circular Doorway still had this tangible quality, like all their past albums, I could visualize the song’s cog’s, interlocking teeth spinning together and chiming out sweet melodies. In contrast, The World Is Real, feels like magic. There are these beautiful and fleeting moments of sound that fly in at you, like the guitar in Do You Recall?, the harmonizing backing vocals on Bury The House, the strings of Go Back, or the trumpet overture to Takin’ My Time, this is just a selection magic moments that fill the album. I’m just not sure how they happen.

LAKE has an incredible ability to write songs of great depth, both aural and emotional, but I’ve also thought of them as a nicely contained band. There seems to be an infinite amount of space on The World Is Real, it gives the music a scale that I’ve never before associated with the band. The songs feel bigger more grand, take Dog in the Desert which begins, and is underscored by this beautiful atmospheric swirl that at points seems to spin off into space.  It gives the song this strangely sci-fi-dystopian feel that I would never have expected from the band.

Or Perfect Fit, a song I’ve heard them perform a few times before and thought was reminiscent of Giving and Receiving’s Roger Miller, an amazing song but one I felt was fairly contained. Perfect Fit opens with this brief and angelic voice that echoes in from a great distance away, returning a later in the song it also adds this otherworldly feel to what is otherwise one of LAKE’s signature danceable classics, like Madagascar, or Blue Ocean Blue.

Not totally separate from the sheer amount of space that this album elicits, but certainly an element of what makes this album feel beautifully unreal, are the layers. Up until the master tape that contained Giving and Receiving began to disintegrate, the band had never worked digitally.  That album was transferred to digital and the final mix became a hybrid of tape and digital. They repeated this process with The World Is Real, and spent months working through different ideas for the songs, post recording. “It’s the first album we’ve made, where we’ve actually been able to try every single idea that we’ve thought of,” Eli Moore told me in our interview last November.

The final result is an album with layer upon layer of instruments, vocals, and other-worldly sounds. There’s no room for dead space on this album, the vast expanse of each song is filled from corner to corner.  There is a complexity to these songs, something different working on each level, often underscored by vocals, synthesized ambiance, strings, you name it. Having given themselves the time to play and experiment with different sounds and instruments, LAKE was able to create an album that sounds different at every layer.

The familiar structure and songwriting of LAKE, is present throughout, there’s no denying that much. But The World Is Real, is as unexpected as Circular Doorway was. Musical elements materialize, fade, grow, bloom, explode, dissolve, vanish, and hum low enough to vibrate your heart strings. LAKE’s adventurous spirit has continued to keep the band fresh for nearly a decade, LAKE always sounds like LAKE, but never sounds like the same LAKE.

The real stand out song for me is Dog In The Desert, a beautiful and haunting song that sounds reminiscent of On The Swing, from their album Oh, The Places We’ll Go. The simple sliding bass line, Ashley Eriksson’s dulcet vocals, the haunting synthesizer swirl that hums beneath the song, and a barrage of fleeting surprises, make the song a real gem. It begins simply, layering one element after another, building slowly until it reaches this magic boiling point, where everything drops out and it ends just as it began. The imagery even without lyrics makes me salivate.

It seems hacky to say that The World Is Real feels unreal, but it’s true. It feels like Oz, like Wonderland, like some Philip K. Dick synthesized reality, like a lucid dream. It definitely doesn’t feel like the world I inhabit, and that’s what makes this album so amazing. It feels like it almost shouldn’t be able to exist, a body floating in mid-air above the stage, but there are no strings, no illusions, no hidden tricks. This magic is real.

Most bands are lucky to put out one great album in a life time, good bands are lucky to do it once every couple years, LAKE has managed to put out two incredible albums in one year. The World is Real is available now on k-records or bandcamp at laketheband.bandcamp.com. LAKE will be playing a record release show at 20/20 Cycle in Seattle on 9/18 which will also kick off a US tour.

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