“At least to begin with, I would recommend closing your eyes.”
Those are the first words that come out of Gang Gang Dance keyboardist Brian DeGraw’s solo debut as bEEdEEgEE. It’s a terrific nugget of advice that pretty much sums up this whole album’s aim to uplift the listener into an invigorating sensory state of mind. Does it succeed? Yes…for the most part.
The voice (which sounds a lot like those quit-smoking now tapes) goes on to encourage a meditative mindset in Helium Anchor, before slowly giving way to 45 minutes of synthpoppy, beat-driven sounds that build up into the 80’s-tinged dance/trance album that SUM/ONE essentially is. Composed of nine pristine tracks, the record aims to stay away from Gang Gang Dance’s well-known improvisational style, and reveals a more meticulous side of DeGraw that results in spacious tunes supported by a handful of vocal talents.
Like Rain Man features fellow Gang Gang Dancer, singer Lizzi Bougatsos, who accompanies the atmospheric dub track with unintelligible gossamer vocals. The song’s swirling synth lines are reminiscent of GGD, and the whole thing sounds something like Narnia on acid. Douglass Armor’s pleading vocals give Empty Vases a nostalgic tint that allows for an enjoyably decompressing moment. And in (F.U.T.D.) Time of Waste, CSS’s Lovefoxxx and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor team up with DeGraw for seven-minutes of dancefloor mayhem in which Taylor incessantly repeats, “All I wanna do is fuck up the day.” Lovefoxxx reappears in Flowers, where we find the Brazilian singer at her sunniest yet. The song is a colorful synthpop gem that fills the heart with joy.
Again, despite some loopier diversions, DeGraw’s solo flight is more precise than GGD, and the appeal of his technicolor melodies rely on that cleaner simplicity. Overlook amalgamates dance-pop with R&B, while still maintaining an ethereal undertone; and the first single, Bricks is an instrumental cosmic swirl of infectious beats. The record wraps up with Quantum Poet Riddim, another pleasant, exotic, instrumental-only piece.
SUM/ONE was recorded in the W0RMB1N studio in upstate Woodstock, where DeGraw spent an entire year carefully sculpting the record’s many engaging shapes that are enriched by his long experience as a music producer. At first a little a bit diffuse, once you listen to the whole of SUM/ONE, the eccentric band name attached to it makes perfect sense, as it reflects the album’s restless essence, and fits the complex, layered tracks like a glove.