'The Rose Explodes' is the second record from brooding super-group Dream Boat, made out of Elephant 6 legend Dan Donahue, who has been a wordsmith for Of Montreal and Elf Power in his time, and singer-songwriter Page Campbell, who offers up her fractured, crackling vocals. A bunch of their like-minded friends, from both Elephant 6 fame and Hope for Agoldensummer -- Campbell's old band -- were on hold to help make the music of House Boat, and their new record continues their soft, serene and unsettling dream pop. For all the mention of Elephant 6, this is serious, dark territory.
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If Beach House were part of the Elephant 6 Recording Company, they would sound like this: dreamy and full of ethereal dread, but eased back from space to earth with xylophones and acoustic percussion. It figures, then, that half of Elephant 6 actually feature on Dream Boat's 'The Rose Explodes': helping dour vocalist Page Campbell and her stoical collaborator Dan Donahue are Scott Spillane of Neutral Milk Hotel fame, as well as John Fernandes of psych-folk outfit the Olivia Temor Control. They help get the cosmic party underway, happy to scale dark tones against super bright sounds (like the oscillating synth of "More Alive"), or use super primitive and gleefully out-of-place keys on songs that feel like they exist on another terrestrial plane -- "Closest" feels like it doesn't know whether it wants to be 'Bloom' or 'Black Foilage', which is part of its allure.
'The Rose Explodes' sometimes gets too nostalgic about the organic folk wanderings of the good old days -- the acoustic guitar strums of "Never Die" give off a barnyard aesthetic that you can't really scale against the rest of the record's heartbroken space rock, and when it climaxes, it sounds kinda like a bombastic version of the National's "England" -- but it's ultimately a delightful, well calibrated marriage of these two distinct sounds. There's no reason dream pop and psych folk can't live together in harmony; both look towards something beyond our reach. Ultimately, though, 'The Rose Explodes' is best when it drives home the former and only hints at the latter. Now let's all go hang out in the spaceship over the sea.
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