Waverly is the first album from Montreal-based electronic producers Ben Borden and David Ertel, who go under the name Solar Year. The vague paganism suggested by that moniker is fully appropriate, as there is an almost New Age tenor to the duo's productions: the tones and drones they engage in on songs such as "Global Girlfriend" or "Currents" have a ceremonial quality to them, especially when they go for vocal harmonies à la Animal Collective (minus Noah Lennox's distinctive warble, mind you). When they add proper rhythms to their material, like on the vaguely tribal "Night & Day," "Pivot" and "Soleil-Moon," you can hear them quoting the same studio tricks popularized a couple of years ago by The Subliminal Kid and Van Rivers, and it only adds to Waverly's oblique mystical vibe.
With its tense atmospheres and rousing second half, "Brotherhood" is the album's pièce de résistance; it even caused a mini-stir in the blogosphere over the summer because it features fellow Montrealer Grimes. In the end, their collaborative effort doesn't carry the latter's knack for twisted hooks (no matter how skewed they can be), and Claire Boucher's presence remains limited to a few childish background coos. Yet, the yearning languor the song displays—which is not unlike what other local eccentric D'eon proposed on his latest long-player—makes for the most explicitly emotional moment on the album, closely followed by the pulsating "Abby + Amber" and "Lines."
A few weeks ago, the album's release party was hosted by… the McGill Memorial public swimming pool in Montreal. Needless to say, these settings were perfectly fitting for the so-called immersive experience Solar Year are aiming for with their music. At the same time, as intriguing the idea of being literally drowned in sound sounds, the water (real or metaphorical) somehow serves more as a filter than a convector; some could even say the music Borden and Ertel design together is too remote to be fully engaging, a feeling that is all but enhanced by the sometimes uneasy mastering of the whole thing ("Vu U" and the aforementioned "Night & Day"). But in the end, this is a minor flaw, considering that Waverly is constant and consistent in its crossing between a less exotic Dead Can Dance and a more lo-fi Fever Ray, which is certainly a captivating enough blend for a debut album.
Tracklist: Solar Year - Waverly01. Brotherhood
03. Vu U
04. Night and Day
05. Global Girlfriend
07. Cardinal Points
10. Addy + Amber