When Bambi and Cole Browning started writing the songs that would be become Reptaliens’ 2017 debut LP, FM-2030, they had no intention of starting a band. Focusing at first on creating music and art on a purely personal level, the project soon took off when the duo brought on Julian Kowalski (guitar) and Tyler Verigin (drums) to form a live band. The four-piece swiftly delved into songwriting inspired by sci-fi art and literature, cult mentalities, and deep connections. The result was the band’s self-defined genre of “dreamwave,” which connected musical influences ranging from Gary Wilson-inspired jazzy lounge music, the warmth of Broadcast’s recording production, to Todd Rundgren’s outer space synth sounds.
After touring throughout most of 2017 and 2018 with STRFKR, Cults, and Of Montreal, the band returned home and went straight into renowned Portland studio Jackpot to record their sophomore LP, VALIS. Titled after the 1981 Philip K. Dick novel, VALIS is a cohesive collection of songs unified in sound and structure and supported by recurring lyrical themes. Reptaliens wanted to recreate the warmth of something personal and familiar, while also providing the listener with the room to create a unique and personal relationship with the music. This duality can be found in the constructs, themes, and imagery portrayed through vocalist and bassist Bambi’s lyrical concepts. Juxtaposed against the backdrop of friendly and lighthearted pop hooks and melodies, Bambi engages her audience through motifs of loneliness, longing, abduction, isolation, and change as well as love and personal connection.
Musically, VALIS remains consistent with Reptaliens’ sound: 80’s analog synthesizers, tape delay echos, and a dreamy blend of guitar lines which ebb and flow throughout Bambi’s melodies. The songs are phantasmagoric, recorded with their signature lo-fi simplistic production. However, Reptaliens work from a different perspective here, instead opting for a sparse and airy atmosphere which places equal importance on the space between notes as the chord progressions themselves. Tracks like “Shuggie II” and “Sunrise, Sunset” are breezy and minimal, resulting in an intimate and personal atmosphere in which the listener can ruminate. This more minimalist approach culminates with the album ender “Heather”, a stripped-down guitar track where Bambi laments the recent loss of a friend to suicide. They dynamism of VALIS comes from a balance between the band’s more introspective tracks with kinetic synth pop songs such as “Echo Park” and “Give Me Your Love” and and the up-beat guitar driven tracks “Venetian Blinds” and “Baby Come Home”.
With FM-2030, Reptaliens divulged tales from an etic: outsiders perspective of cult kidnappings, alien abductions, and sci-fi speculations towards potential future realities. In VALIS, the lense is turned inwards and, through the looking glass, the 12 tracks provides an emic glimpse towards the feelings and situations of the subjective experience.
Inspired by sci-fi art, cult mentality and deep connections, creating low fidelity chameleon dreamscapes somewhere between abstract expressionism and surrealism both sonically and visually. Reptaliens is a project of exploration in pop culture.
Coming to the show a bit late here, honestly, when I saw Michelle on KEXP you-tube, I was taken away, that voice..
Diving woman is my favorite track, it has the intensity of Slowdive & the bass+drums really remind me of MetalBox & Flowers of Romance by Public Image Limited.
Lyrically,I love the concepts and the warmth of sentiment, some searing truths written in an accessibility, its giving me a doorway to understanding her generation. irq506
As Wild Nothing, the multi-talented Jack Tatum works within an especially melancholy 80's aesthetic and with this album pushes himself towards a higher level of sophistication.
This is seriously one of the best albums I've heard in a very long time. Euphoric cinematic pop masterpiece! david_86
Her vocal range and her range of melodic ideas, combined with incredibly intriguing lyrics make this some of my favorite music to have stumbled on in months. I think Static Buzz is my favorite. Jasper Skydecker