Chad Valley “Equatorial Ultravox” (Cascine)

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Chillwave. Hypnagogic pop. Somnambulistic sonatas. The first two are very real "words" cooked up by Brit journalists who are either overly enthusiastic or overly bored, and can be used both as nouns and adjectives to reference a scene which in-the-main is nearly dead without having caused a ripple in the US. Who’s at fault here? The A) US for missing something spectacular, or the B) UK for giving one too many clots of similar sounds an official denomination? The answer? Option C: You to Decide. What is fact here, and what we must concern ourselves with for the moment is that Chad Valley IS Hugo Manuel; and Manuel belongs both to Jonquil (band) as well as the Oxford-based “collective,” Blessing Force—both fall nominally under the still-standing banner of chillwave. Not an official definition here: consider it the further-mellowed contemporary ancestor of shoegaze. And Valley, with his sweet tenor, has not fallen too far from the tree with his first solo exploit. Seemingly, it is a good thing. Equatorial Ultravox is a long-but-too-short EP which at seven tracks brushes the underbelly of album-dom. It’s lo-tech, sure, with heavy reliance on a sampler and a nice collection of effects, but however much is going on, the production keeps a clean edge. So whether you’re talking ‘bout the ‘80s (Can you find the samples from Yellow?) alt pop-meets-Steely Dan of Fast Challenges or Shapeless’ synchronically saturated and bleached-out soundwall, Manuel aims for and achieves a daydreamy coherence here. It’s heavy-lidded, sure, and perfect for making out, falling asleep in the sun or buying a puppy.

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