REVIEW: Vinyl Williams - Into

Kelly Kirwan

Vinyl Williams is deep. The Los Angeles-based band—whose heart and creator is the artistic love child Lionel Williams—embodies that transcendental pop that’ll make your rational side dizzy from trying to dissect it, because that’s not what they’re here for. Vinyl Williams is not about placing chords, melodies, and certainly not philosophy into neat, logical arrangements. It's about finding the kind of harmony and euphoria that always seems to lie just beyond the cusp of human perception. In fact, providing faint glimpses into “other realms” is exactly the fuel for Williams' artistic intent. It’s a reflective, new-age, Eastern-influenced kind of vibe that’s seen in Williams’ visual fractal art—which seems to fold in on itself in an endless array of shape and color—and pulses through his new album, Into.

Released under Chaz Bundick's (aka Toro Y Moi) new label, Company Records, Into is a pensive, soft-sung oeuvre that lulls your third eye open with its meditative hooks (or should I say mantras?). The enunciation lost in Williams' whispering and wistful, shoegaze-inspired delivery only reaffirms that Into, among a long hyphenated list of things, is a rich, ambient album. It also has a foot in the neo psych-pop wave of late, along with traces of krautrock, which breathed life into bands like Can and our current electronica.

While these genres cover a vast sonic landscape, their origins are connected by social dissonance. Psychedelic rock of the '60s and '70s certainly grew out of a polarized climate, much like krautrock was influenced by the quite literally divided Germany. It’s this dissension that Williams is drawn to in his music, perhaps as a result of growing up in a Utah community where his spiritual beliefs didn’t quite mesh.

Because even though Into at first listen sounds like a lingering LSD jam, Williams believes that incorporating as many opposites in his sound is the key to a unified, harmonious audience experience. Still with me here? (And see the point of my quick history addendum?) So when Williams drops descriptions like “meditative abrasiveness,” you realize the noisy reverb and pulsating pitches of his tracks have a soothing effect, and suddenly it makes sense.

Standout tracks on Into include its first single, "World Soul," with its percussion backbone and soulful undertones. While Williams' voice may be a steady murmur, his melodies have an unpredictable and effervescent quality; likely a result of the improvisation that plays so heavily into his creative process. Another gem of a song is "Allaz," which features an irresistibly funky opener and Williams' deep, breathy voice repeating, “I did it, I tried…” in a way that makes you think of beatnik basements and jazzy blues.

There’s so much going on in Vinyl Williams' music—and head—that Into almost feels like a three-dimensional piece. It merges sound and sight into a holistic experience that washes over you like a wave of mysticism. Vinyl Williams' waters may run deep, but they’re the kind we want to dive into.