“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” Kerouac perhaps articulated the feeling of a farewell the most eloquently, and it’s true: goodbyes are inevitable.
With her project Blue Hawaii, Braids’ Raphaelle Standell-Preston explores the moodier side to tropical psych-pop, like the gorgeous other half of the island that’s cast in shadows. Along with bandmate Alexander Cowan, known as Agor, the two have released the sullenly beautiful Untogether under the Blue Hawaii moniker. The album is steeped with a retrospective gaze at detachment, a tale spoken through the subtlety of hypnotic electronic beats and Standell-Preston’s own vocals, themselves a malleable instrument.
Blue Hawaii’s brand of electronic music is studied, extending far past machine. Like contemporary composer Holly Herndon, Untogether takes the utmost care to breathe life from the MPC and into the human ear. Opener “Follow” listens like the ever-shifting tide. At first chopped vocals lap over slick, understated beats, a sentiment that shifts into unsettlement once Standell-Preston’s vocals fully unfurl themselves later in the track, rising into a wave that’s unexpected and daunting. “In Two” cuts with eerie ooohs looped behind throbbing drum machines and warped melodies, and “10 Reaction 2” chills the way a windy winter night on the beach whips through your saltwater hair.
Farewells have a palpable sound, whether it be an old, familiar song or the hums of past conversations. With Untogether, Blue Hawaii has grasped the measured spaces that a distance leaves behind, emotional or otherwise, into a rich — albeit pained — work. Cold but never calculated, Untogether harnesses emptiness while looking ahead to that distant someday when the sun will come out again and warm your back.
Essential Tracks: “Daisy”, “Follow”, and “10 Reaction 2”