by Ben Oliver
Photo by Neil Favila
One of our favorite bands, Gardens & Villa, is proud to announce that their second album, Dunes, will be released February 4 on Secretly Canadian. The five-piece traveled to record with Tim Goldsworthy (Cut Copy, DFA Records, Hercules & Love Affair) at Key Club, a converted locksmith’s building in Benton Harbor, MI. Goldsworthy encouraged the band’s unbridled creativity and gave them access to a range of nerdy gear including Sly Stone’s custom-built Flickinger recording console. With Goldsworthy’s expert assistance,Dunes is a record abundant with contrasts, that shares a clear and evocative vision of where Gardens & Villa’s members have traveled, what they’ve learned, and what lies ahead. See the album cover art and tracklisting below! You can also listen to the first new single, “Bullet Train”, as well as watch the new album trailer.
The crystalline, aha moment, for Dunes came after a month of dogged recording in the middle of the bleak Midwest winter — foreign and dissociative terrain for Gardens & Villa, whose members are more accustomed to the warm breezes and surf of hometown Santa Barbara, CA. The band had only left the studio space five times during that month, lost in a black hole of music-making. As their time with Goldsworthy drew to a close, with deadlines looming and personal woes creeping in, the band found themselves anxious, stressed out, sad. They needed a natural remedy — an escape into the wilds of Michigan.
As seen in the album trailer below, the five members of Gardens & Villa – Adam Rasmussen, Chris Lynch, Dusty Ineman, Levi Hayden and Shane McKillop – traversed Benton Harbor’s winding roads and frozen tundra, to climb its highest point: an expanse of snow-covered sand dunes. The view at the top left them breathless. Here was the great wide world, in sharp contrast to their cloistered recording haze; with the ice crunching beneath their feet, they saw Lake Michigan, stretching across the distant horizon, simultaneously reminding them of home as well as the tyranny of that distance.
Beyond that eye-opening trip, Dunes contains an amalgam of influences. Opposing methodologies between band members make for wonderful tension in songs about the importance of isolation as well as connection, on appreciating the beauty of analog. The band’s vibrant rhythms, fluttering flute melodies, and pulsing synth lines now intersect with more nuance than ever before. At different points, the record recalls the jerky, blissful funk of Prince (“Bullet Train”) and the cold-wave of Depeche Mode (“Colony Glen” and “Thunder Glove”) in its outwards-facing dance jams, while piano-heavy tracks (“Chrysanthemums” and “Minnesota”) feature complementary melodies that inspire introspection.