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Greg Gonzalez and his ambient dream pop group Cigarettes After Sex have been active since 2008, having just now released their anticipated self-titled debut album. Rather than hasty releases, they have mused over their sound and accomplished it.

Ever since the release of their first EP in 2012, they have been producing an idyllic sound that encapsulates the feeling of being held by a significant other. Their work consists of lullabies of lilting eloquence, but until now it was uncertain as to whether this inviting group from El Paso, Texas, could maintain an absorbing LP. There is now no doubt.

From the first track, ‘K’, Randy Miller’s mellow bass lines and Phillip Tubbs’ key and guitar work make you think of noirish dark spaces; of darkness, so encapsulating, it is only realised by the flickering light of Gonzalez’s intoxicatingly moody vocals. For some, the vocals may encourage disengagement, but once accepted they seem essential to the instrumentation.

Cigarettes After Sex, Cigarettes After Sex (Partisan Records), released 9 June 2017, is available on Apple Music and Spotify

The lyrics infrequently pose an issue, particularly the numb and simple recurrence on the song ‘Apocalypse’. However, it is the album’s closing track that offers the biggest shrug. A certain crude lyric, in particular, feels rather out of place amidst the associative romance conjured prior. Fortunately, most of the album is lyrically enduring and often seems to be hinting at memories you could expect Gonzalez to reinforce with worn, minimalist polaroids. An exceptionally striking track, ‘Sunsetz’, seems to capture the relatable feeling that the lingering imprint of past love can leave on the present.

On tracks such as ‘Each Time You Fall in Love’, the vocals and lyricism blossom to conjure imagery of Los Angeles dreamscapes, with gracious bass lines acting as a caring and nurturing presence. Layers of instrumental talent create a dense mood of reflection and thought, and you feel obliged to listen at a low level to preserve its delicate, nocturnal bliss.

The band manage to grasp an essence of the classical, possessing a majestic maturity rarely discovered in modern music. As the album progresses, it only stands to further romance the listener into a seductive waltz. With these feelings in mind, it feels reminiscent of the careful sweetness of Freelance Whales’ debut LP Weathervanes, another terrific piece of work.

Cigarettes After Sex is an exquisite debut album. Admittedly, none of its content is quite as alluring as certain tracks on the band’s previously released EP, notably the beautiful ‘Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby’, but it is a gorgeously crafted, infectious collection of music made by musicians clearly warm of heart.

8/10

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Posted by Chris Weston

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