After a certain point, sleep deprivation tends to make me feel like I’m submerged in something, like dream physics have bled into the real world. A lot of times, when I hear music that would be considered “dreamy,” it feels closer to that effect than what I would consider anything dream oriented– dreams are places where logic is kind of messed up, but the ones you remember have a kind of clarity to them, they’re frequently vivid. Vancouver’s Heavy Steps use a few dream descriptors in their genre tags and are on a label called Boat Dreams from the Hill, but I’m going to suggest their Trash Object EP is more appropriately labeled music for the sleep deprived.
Part of that is due to the nature of Melissa Gregerson’s vocal contributions, which emerge from the ether of the instrumentation like statements from someone in the process of nodding off. Over the washed out synth piano line of “Spacejam3,” Gregerson repeats “Once you go down there is no…” before drifting back into enough consciousness to declare “Don’t you wait/too long/to find out.” Gregerson’s vocals and melodies may seem breezy at first listen, but she has a wonderful command of the emotion of the recordings, forcing you to carve out meaning in otherwise straightforward and simple tracks. For the oddly named “Spacejam3,” there’s an emphasis on the circularity of the verse, as Gregerson is trapped trying to get a warning out to the listener but when the swell of the chorus hits it seems it’s already too late to find out.
The EP’s climax arguably comes with “River Verse,” a morphine laced electro folk hymnal that somehow makes room for both a gospel backing and a sassy, near acapella pop bridge. It’s a gorgeous, sweeping track that never comes across as grandiose or bloated, perhaps because it keeps its elements to a minimum– just a cheap organ line, a simple clackety beat and all those voices. The backing vocals fill out the low end of the track, leaving Gregerson more than enough room to float around the higher registers, displaying more range than the EP’s other tracks lead you to believe she has. It’s also perhaps the most unique of Heavy Steps’ tracks, mostly ignoring the electro-pop template laid out by its predecessors to stay basically faithful to the gospel-tinged instrumentation and folk flavor of the verses while adding on more disparate elements. Think Wu Lyf backing up Cults with a slight dose of Lorde, but nowhere near as annoying as that sounds.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Loser City as well as Ovrld, where he contributes music reviews and writes a column on undiscovered Austin bands. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with friends on twitter: @Nick_Hanover