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Divinely Dizzy 

Bly Wallentine displays the results of pandemic-era introspection on the purpose of dancing.

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BLY WALLENTINE
  • Bly Wallentine

At first blush, Bly Wallentine's music over the last year comes across as quite wild, from 2020's the purpose of dancing to their newest album, the July 24-released dizzy giant. On both albums, psychedelia reigns, and Wallentine's amorphous musical style creates a bubbling pop-ish concoction that's experimental and improvisational at its core. After years of experimenting—with darkly glinting acoustics and brass on 2015's ~*queen of cups*~ and 2017's god of death to that same year's shoulder devil's indie rock excellence, among others—dizzy giant proves that no sound or style is too out-of-bounds for Wallentine's enduringly creative and spiritual mind.

"That's how I communicate with myself, is through music," Wallentine remarks, as part of a conversation about how the pandemic affected their creativity over the last year. "I've talked to a lot of people, and I think this pandemic forced a lot of people inside themselves. To spend time with yourself, you have to get along with yourself, so a lot of people—myself included—spent a lot of time recovering, introspecting, figuring shit out, accepting themselves. I think creativity is a big part of that."

For Wallentine, that meant a cold winter spent inside at home making music. "It was stuff I needed to get out before summer, so I could have fun," they admit with a laugh.

That stuff would turn into dizzy giant, an album where Wallentine self-mythologizes in a spellbinding way, tackling, "mental shit, working through shadow, clearing shit out." On the opening track "to attack what yields," Wallentine weaves a tale of rebirth—there is a great fall, a rib taken from a broken body, a dove named Bly. It is this song and those that follow that exemplify the kind of magical person and spiritual artist that Wallentine is, to consider their own life in such abstracted and yet symbolically-weighted ways, both lyrically and through their dynamic instrumental work.

Wallentine has been calling dizzy giant their "psych pop" album. When asked about that diverse term, they explain, "I think the album is really psychedelic in its dynamism and its progressiveness. It's constantly building, constantly transforming. My perception of contemporary psychedelia is 'simulation theory' shit. There's a lot of glitchy shit on this record, and I'm moving in that direction, breaking out of the matrix," they laugh. "It's kind of more like a synthesis of this lush, organic, hippie, winds-and-strings, baroque pop kind of thing, and also this hyper digital, glitchy, everything's chopped-up-in-process thing."

"I think with the purpose of dancing, I started to realize that dancing and movement are really important parts of processing feelings, so I definitely need movement to keep shit moving, and drums are that," Wallentine says. "And with the purpose of dancing and dizzy giant both, my kind of writing process started with the drums usually and I would build out of that. So it's beat-oriented I guess, even if [the beats] end up getting covered up."

Notable beats include the "trip hoppy" drum loops from drummer Chris Shemwell on "feminine destruction." Shemwell joined a cast of collaborators like Logan Hone on sax, Katy Ducos on trombone and Jillian Rogers's vocals, percussion, banjo, piano and recorder.

For all this, dizzy giant is a lush album, full of cross-genre references. "Feminine destruction" builds spookily, employing halting glitches as often as it does deep, dusty jazz drums that are the backbone of a spiraling list of words: "trust, jealousy, betrayal ... ostracization, self-pity, despair ... hope, recovery, forgiveness." At the climax of the song, Wallentine wailingly pins all the aforementioned subjects as "all in my head / and outside my head / a terrifying shadow, of which my mind made meaning." It is one of many instances where Wallentine fixates on inner and outer, their own self and others. On "safe smallness," Wallentine grows and shrinks, Alice-like, swelling with confidence, but also shrinking with the fear of stepping on toes.

It tracks with the themes of forgiveness and love on the purpose of dancing. "Forgiveness and love are processes which are ongoing; there's not really an end point," they explain. "You fall back and keep moving forward, fall back a few steps, walk another mile. I've thought about that Jesus shit where he talks about forgiving 70 times seven, forgiving someone again and again and forgiving yourself again and again, [because] you inevitably fall back into judgement."

The 2020 single "don't know what to do (besides love)" makes it onto the album, and it details the strange reality of choosing forgiveness. Wallentine is accompanied by a rousing drum machine beat while proclaiming in a blossoming chorus that, in the face of ill will, they'll "keep loving you anyways, keep loving me anyways."

In the closer, "screaming out to you," Wallentine remains fixated on the space between self and other, asking a simple question of the listener: "can anybody hear me?" It's a question we've all felt in our own minds, in this overwhelmingly crowded and lonely world. Among rambling swaths of brass, Wallentine's voice continues to question how they can possibly reach "anyone," warping artificially, then dipping into its low organic tones, then rubbing roughly against the air. The question takes on a feeling of the divine—a signature not rare in the music of Bly Wallentine. Listen to it at blywallentine.bandcamp.com.

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About The Author

Erin Moore

Erin Moore

Bio:
Erin Moore is City Weekly's music editor. Email tips to: music@cityweekly.net.

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