The surreal pyramid dream-palace of an album that is Vinyl Williams‘ “Opal” begins to take form with “Sanctuary Spells“, a jittery but tranquil jazzy piece with what sounds like an underwater piano at first. Even on some of the more conventionally written songs like this one, the instruments and sounds all sound like they’re being played by friendly multidimensional beings of light. Every synth tone is from another planet, another year. It all becomes one gorgeously never-ending tapestry of a million warm colours. The album unfolds in ten tracks, where to behold each is follow another string in our tapestry.
Most of “Opal“‘s songs have cryptic names, some sounding on a surface level like psychedelic nomenclature, while others bear names referring to different phenomena (“Aphelion”, a beautiful word alone, is the term for when a celestial body like a planet or asteroid is at its farthest point away from the star it orbits.) Despite this, there are no pretentious mind games; instead the album feels like a gentle examination of natural magic and cosmic entities at play. There are hints of conversation in some lyrics but object of attention is blurred, lost in the multicolored haze that traps some very soulful grooviness, songs that work even without the psychedelic instrumental colouring.
“Noumena” is another example of this, a song with moments where all seems awash in a bliss of sound, but remains a very funky affair. It reminded me of something much older, almost 60’s boy band, yet the lyrics and name both allude to a Kantian-metaphysical concept of an object that is so unique and different to human sensation and being as to be unknowable or independent of our reality. The song gently flows into “Spirit of Now” which is shorter and less poppy. Is this a pop album? I can’t say it is, with certainty but no less surreal. “Lansing” also explodes from what could have certainly been either a great pop song or some statement of higher states of consciousness, or maybe both, into a similarly starry nightscape of pleasantly shimmering of synth.
The body of work Lionel Williams has assembled from his moments of psychic awakening transcends one’s first impression of it. Even without knowledge of the mysticism imbued within his work, Lionel‘s created something here that anyone can feel challenged by and simultaneously enjoy, even without a cursory understanding of psych-rock or dream pop or whatever you’d want to label it. After following the band since seeing them open with their friends HOTT MT (another transcendental, dreamy and hard-to-classify band they’ve shared many shows with; highly recommended!) for Django Django in 2012, I have come to find myself entranced with the strange visions of a world Lionel coaxes into the mind of a listener with the band’s music. This is absolutely an album I will be keeping in rotation for quite a while to come.