There are palm trees on the cover, and the first song starts out with a vaguely tropical feeling before turning into something closer to a French-pop duet. A song midway through starts out with ambient sounds that very closely resemble (and probably are) the sounds you hear when you’re settling into an airplane seat and getting ready for takeoff. The final track, “Arriver” (as opposed to the opening track, “Departeures”), ends with a pilot’s loudspeaker announcement and some kind of field recording of applause.
This is a travel album, one created during journeys which also replicates the disorientation and beauty of being on the move, abroad. It does that mainly through rather gorgeous, shifting dream-pop, consistently melodic (in a sticks-in-your-head even if you’re not sure what he’s saying way), but also with the directness of folk or punk. REW<< is Ryan Weber, who is half of the somewhat similarly focused duo Eric & Magill, and also has played in emotionally direct groups like the Promise Ring and its rootsier relative Decibully. That past is here somehow, though not so close to the surface that you’d guess it without knowing.
Departeures was recorded in “hotel rooms and train compartments” in Asia and Africa, and is largely a one-person affair. The music feels carefully put together by someone with a lot of time on his hands; and a laptop that able to be recharged at airports across the globe. These songs seem solitary, too; focused within the brain of the traveler, asking questions of himself like, “Where do I go from here?” or expressing thoughts like “it’s getting tougher all the time.”
Listening, though, I never imagine that those questions and thoughts pertain just to travel itself, but are more a reflection of how travel, especially solitary travel, presents a unique opportunity for contemplation.
It may be rare for a DIY pay-as-you-wish “singer-songwriter” bandcamp album, even one for the laptop era, to warrant an additional instrumental version of the album. Yet this one has it, and deserves it. My ears and mind are drawn more often to the music and the ever-shifting textures of Departeures than I am to the singing and lyrics. Or rather, the vocals are just one more piece of the fabric; they unite with the synthesizers, acoustic guitars and unexpected or unidentifiable sounds.
As an album it floats by quickly, but not without permeating your thoughts. Like travel itself, perhaps?