Glass Grave released Gateway Drug on 24th August. Originally, I wanted to write this to be published at the same time, but it has been impossible. The album is a rabbit hole. The more I listened, the more I needed to listen. I wanted to write something that could as accurately as possible convey the quality of music in this humble, hidden gem. I have at last, reached a point where I have had to draw the line, or this article would never make the internet.
Glass Grave is the work of Mike James. You may know him for Horseflies, Deluxe Flamingos and several other music projects in the Portsmouth scene over the last ten years. Music is a fundamental part of his life.
The release of Gateway Drug is a lovely little surprise from him. A 12 song, homemade wonder, recorded by him with an extraordinary amount of love for the craft. Including several samples of friends and family, Gateway Drug is very much the musical exploration of the many facets of his world.
The album opens with ‘Death Floristry’, a warm sound moving into a pleasurable dawdle along a sunny path. An ethereal awakening, dancing with back ground witterings. The layering of sound make this a perfect Sunday morning riser, leaking out into a filthy bass playout against howling wind.
‘Warm Echo’ is warm. A wonderful mixture of sliding guitar, twinkling piano, and deep, throbbing bass. It sounds like the feeling of sun on your face, closed eyes searching through intense hues of orange and pink. ‘Slip Sink’ is really very beautiful. There are elements of Bonobo here with the gentle percussion and delicate guitar. The synths keep it grounded and balanced.
‘Back to the Woods’ oozes Bowie with, vocals, guitar, bass and a cheeky whistle. Glass Grave’s ability to mix elements of different genres into something really rather unique and particular is very impressive and distinctive. ‘So Run’ continues to flow along like sunlit water in a nearby river. ‘It Floats’, guested by Roberta Fidora is a worthy lynchpin, strengthening the album’s sense of identity.
‘Controller’ is magnificent. Really unusual layers of sounds, with segments of vocals sitting behind the music. Through the entire album there’s the marvellous sensation that despite the segmented nature of layers, you are listening to complete piece of music. It’s cohesive. It all comes together to make one lovely thing.
‘Back 2 the Woods’ has a rich early 90s electronica to it. Synths give a certain weight to verses building to a joyous crescendo, reminiscent of early Moby. ‘Reel’ is a great little number with new wave guitar running alongside, up and around its infectious chanty nature.
It’s quite overwhelming really, the emotion and sheer quality that can go into an album like this. We live in days where music is much more accessible online, yet with the monster of targeted marketing many of us fall foul to purposely designed anthems that resonate with us artificially, a tick box of auto-tuning nonsense that mean nothing more than a foot tap.
It’s artists like Glass Grave that in the space of a year, create a truly generous album, simply for the love of it. Taking inspiration from our everyday and turning it into something extraordinarily beautiful. There are no cut corners in the sound for the production. No big lights and big balances required to pull this already sparkling diamond from the rough. It exists already and wholeheartedly, naturally resonating with our most personal of spaces. Go to the Glass Grave Bandcamp site and buy this album, love music for music’s sake, a natural and beautiful expression of our lives and worlds.