Gap Dream: Shine Your Light – album review
CD/LP/CS/DL (bonus digital edition with 5 extra tracks available here)
Shine on you crazy diamond! Gap Dream’s Gabe Fulvimar returns with breakthrough synthgasm meisterwerk for fans of Moroder, Kraftwerk and Chromatics. Shine Your Light is “the album he always wanted to make”, and the album we always wanted to hear.
Big things are happening for Gabe Fulvimar AKA Gap Dream; he’s swapped the bar gigs of his native Ohio for the country wide Burgerama Caravan of Stars tour, he’s moved into a storage space behind his beloved Burger Records in Fullerton, and his new album Shine Your Light received acknowledgement from synth pioneer and personal hero Giorgio Moroder.
Although more laid back and modest than most, with his dark and stringy long hair and omnipresent colour therapy eye-wear, Gabe has always been one of the most instantly recognisable faces of the Burger family, sometimes sneering but mostly laughing in his warm, distinctive way. This is because Gabe Fulvimar is blessed (cursed?) with a dazzling star quality and a memorable presence to match his enormous musical gifts, which are more awe-inspiring and brighter than ever before on second full length Shine Your Light.
The debut Gap Dream album was one of the catalysts for kick starting my rampant love affair with Burger, but here its despondent slouchiness has been polished to a confident, self-assured lustre, while song tempos have also sped up and (thanks in part to assisting producer Bobby Harlow) the instrumentation is defiantly crisp and bold. The guitars have nearly all been replaced by sumptuous synthesisers, which gives the compositions a fuller, richer sound; and despite the bad rep keyboards get for being emotionally detached, Shine Your Light is both a viscerally somatic and devastatingly spiritual experience, so real and absolute it feels like you could wrap your arms around it.
The title track begins with a nimble-fingered synth twinkle that sounds like it’s repeatedly being doused in the sparkling ejaculate of high-flying fairy princes, or the radiant deaths of thousands of exploding faraway star colonies. In fact, the many outsider entanglements of Shine Your Light’s home-seeking narrative and the unique “universe inside” Fulvimar often suggest a beautiful place at the furthest periphery of humanity’s galactic reach, not that it is impenetrable in any way… Just think of Gabe as an R-rated E.T., light shines from his fingertips (in this instance, when he’s behind a keyboard), he’s trying to communicate in a sometimes hostile, annoying world so he can go home, but he smokes a lot of weed and occasionally drops the odd acid tab before meeting Michael Stipe…
Throughout the album, the newly upfront drums have a chug-a-lug punch, and Gabe’s voice retains its signature unconcerned cool, creating a winning mix of mellow West Coast calm and the strung-out paranoid psych undercurrents previously established on the self-titled debut. Chill Spot is a drowsy, languid groove which is the musical form of that reefer-induced haze where you are attempting to buckle your seat-belt when sitting on your friend’s living room sofa, feeling like you’ve experienced entire centuries in the space of a few minutes.
Love Is Not Allowed reminds me of my favourite ambient moments from Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets, and the synth arrangements and sunny harmonies are so dazzlingly bright its almost like stumbling outside after being blindfolded in a basement for several days.
The funky Fantastic Sam begins like a rad 70s porno soundtrack, and I can’t help but picture an obscenely well-endowed version of Burt Reynolds in a wide-lapel polyester leisure suit, disco dancing to this. Sounds like a nightmare, but once you get used to the idea, you’ll love it, trust me…
Shine Your Love is like Wendy Carlos heralding the coronation of a king with a triumphal glory of synthetic trumpets, while the cautionary weariness of Snow Your Mind could be a Chromatics Night Drive outtake (maybe down to all those repeat viewings of Drive at the Burger store?).
You’re From the Shadow is a no-nonsense severing of bad influences, one of at least three album tracks where Gabe’s lip curls with discontent when reflecting on a relationship gone sour.
The closer Come Home always gives me goose bumps with its hopeful yearning for love, comfort and belonging, things so elusive sometimes they seem like made up mythologies in a sci-fi film plot. Ultimately Shine Your Light is a struggle against darkness, and its ever-changing maze of moods constantly straddle light and dark in a high stakes contest of the soul.
It may be easy for Pitchfork to smugly parody Gabe and the slacker aesthetic of Burger in general as a one dimensional caricature with low ambition, but only a fool could fail to see the labyrinth of moods present on Shine Your Light, complex and multi-faceted like the glittering cut of an exquisitely rare diamond. It has heart and blood and guts in abundance, and although much more optimistic than the first record, it is still a stunning, lonely opus of alienation and restlessness that should touch anyone who has ever felt lost in the vast black space within themselves.
I have watched Gap Dream’s rapid ascension to prominence very closely; I first saw them live in New York when possibly jeopardizing my own safety at a tiny concrete art space next to a housing project which recently closed down after a shooting incident. Little did I know they would be playing a sold out show at the 550 capacity Bowery Ballroom the next time they returned to the city. Suddenly becoming the toast of the indie world, with featured videos on Spin and being top of the CMJ charts must surely come with huge pressures, but hopefully the awesome Gabe Fulvimar can still find his “chill spot”. Pitchfork can always edit their review in a couple of years when Shine Your Light becomes an established classic…
Welcome home, Gabe.
All words by Carrie Quartly. You can read more of her writing on the site here.