Words: James Frostick
Band image: Ruby Gabe Varbørton and Bridghid Russell
A couple of years on from the release of introductory statement ‘Nil By Mouth’, dream-pop duo Devotions return with a lush double A-side single. Serene and surreal, both tracks boast blissful waves of luxuriant dream-pop sound – the kind that is effortlessly easy to sink into, but impossibly hard to extricate one’s self from.
Aside from a four-word stylistic descriptor on its Soundcloud page (“languid excess and pop“– brief-yet-accurate), there isn’t a lot of info out there on Devotions upon which to hang one’s hat. Until today, the band’s only piece of accessible recorded material was single ‘Nil By Mouth‘ – a lush piece of dream-pop, backlit by flashes of post-punk and shoegaze. Despite being divided by state lines, Meanjin/Brisbane-based Luke Zahnleiter (of crystalline craftsmen Glitter Veils and indie experimentalists The Rational Academy) and Naarm/Melbourne-based Kate Mackenzie (of buzzed asphalt thumpers Martyr Privates) have clearly been amassing a stockpile of material since the track’s release a couple of years ago. An album’s worth, from what I hear. Today marks the release of a welcome double A-side single, featuring new tracks ‘Final Girl’ and ‘Modeling’ – an expansion of the languorous and shimmering sound that ‘Nil By Mouth’ introduced us to in 2019.
Sure, one can craft a rough silhouette of Devotions by using comparison as an easy descriptor. There are shades of Beach House, Chromatics, HTRK, Cocteau Twins and other ambient, synth-driven dream-pop contemporaries in the mix here, but listing vague resemblances don’t do the duo justice. Even the sparse instrumental palette – the gentle drum-machine patter, woozy synth wash and malleable guitar – seems greater/deeper than the sum of its parts. Devotions sounds like smoke billowing in slow motion, flashes of blue and purple strobe glinting off glass, or life perceived in soft focus. On both tracks Luke Zahnleiter’s guitars wind and entwine, coiling and slithering through the mix, rippling the group’s honeyed haze with prismatic brilliance. Meanwhile Kate’s airy, diaphanous vocals add both a gossamer-like delicateness and understated force, cooing cooly about things like “going anywhere just to get away“. There’s an escapism at play that gives Devotions a transportive like quality – even in the low bass-heavy passages of ‘Modeling’ I feel like I’m elsewhere. When the track fades out after its zenith I’m left feeling dazed, like emerging from a dreamlike state. The effect lingers for a while, too, which is a testament to the staying power of Devotions’ brand of languid and seductive sound. It’s so good.
Listen to ‘Final Girl’ and ‘Modeling’ below: