Last January, Slumberbuzz had changed its name, solidified its sound and lineup, and written enough material to fill an album. At the time, the band was hoping to put out a full-length, but member shifts and life in general seemed to put recording and releasing music on the back burner. Almost two years later, the quintet finally has an album ready. In light of the meandering, melodic textures, gauzy atmospherics, and a dreamlike, contemplative pace, it almost makes sense that the band’s self-titled debut would take that long to arrive.
Tracked at Red Star in Arlington and mixed by singer-guitarist Jason Alford at his home, the album carries the kind of warm, low-fi sonics you’d find in a Velvet Underground album — and that’s no accident. “We recorded to one-inch tape,” Alford said. “I think we banged it out in three days, with a day to mix it. We wanted it to have a DIY sound, and that’s pretty much how we made it.”
And like the VU’s penchant for droning, hypnotic, mid-tempo jams, Slumberbuzz gets your head stuck in a cloud of melodious space-rock, in which fuzzed-out guitar leads break into trembling, shimmery noise, everything anchored by John Pickle’s bass and Katy Webb’s keys.
While it’s Webb’s keys you hear on the album, she left the band last year; Alaina Tompkins has taken over, adding her own effects and countermelodies to Webb’s parts. Around the time of Webb’s departure, guitarist Aaron Davis temporarily moved out of Fort Worth and was replaced by Sam Dobbin of Tiger of Bengal. Now Davis has resumed his old post. “Aaron, Pickle, and I are a great songwriting team,” Alford said. “We’ve got a lot of new songs in the works, too, between stuff I’ve got at home and stuff we’ve jammed on.”
For now, though, Slumberbuzz offers plenty for the listener to get lost in. You could call it shoegaze, but there’s an undeniable blues current that provides a tether to pull listeners through the haze of reverb, tremolo, and phased guitars that build in volume and attack (see: the swirling album closer, “Kill Me Again”).
Long before the album ends in explosions of drummer Sean Toth’s snare rolls and a whirling maelstrom of guitar delay, the record opens with “Strung Out All the Time,” built on a jangly guitar figure and vintage synth line that sounds optimistic, hopeful even, the way a sunny morning in winter feels. The lead-off track is probably Slumberbuzz’s most Velvet-y song, especially given its “remember when we hurt so fine, strung out all the time” refrain, but the hook, sung in Alford’s high tenor, sticks in your head before ducking into a hive of buzzing feedback. And then the darkness comes. “Out of Luck” echoes like a cave, its anxious, minor-key progression carrying the chorus into Brian Jonestown Massacre territory. By the time the chaos has passed, the band seems to have gotten lost in its amplifiers, as songs like “Take Me Back Home” and “Pretty Guns” burn with distortion and reverb.
“I tell people we’re kind of a shoegazey Velvet Underground,” Alford said. “But why limit yourselves to one particular sound?”
In truth, his band’s debut is 100 percent recognizably its own. While Alford and company have their influences (besides VU, Slumberbuzz members also dig The Stone Roses, Blur, and The Dandy Warhols), the ’60s grit and vibe in the music has a unifying quality — it’s a sonic hallmark of Dreamy Soundz Records, the Fairmount-area indie label run by Year of the Bear drummer Robby Rux and his wife and bandmate Jennifer Rux. They’re putting out the CD and also a cassette version released in the summer.
Even though the band is preparing for an eventual follow-up, Slumberbuzz’s new collection of old tunes is a good place to drift into trippy shade and light. It will be exciting to see what they do next.
Fri at The Where House w/Toy Gun, Oddlott, Vicious Firs. All ages. $7. 817-913-7777.