SXSW 2018: Floating Room – Sunless

Floating Room barreled out of the Portland on the left to release their debut album Sunless in 2016. The band, headed by Maya Stoner and Kyle Bates on guitar, vocals, and synth and joined by bassist Alec Van Staveren and Sonia Weber on drums, is slated to perform at SXSW in a show that is sure to be loud; profound; and subtly, realistically, irresistibly, sinful.

In Sunless, spangly electric plucked notes like strikingly clean grout outlines hard ceramic chords and shadowy vocals in “Sad God.” Maya sings like a woman who can wear vegan leather and make it look real. The track is irresistible like the second-to-last cookie… It crunches and crumbles and as a listener, you can savor it slowly or gobble it up quickly, depending on your mood. “Dead Weight” hits you with the force of walking into an arcade. There is so much to listen to, so much to see, but you want to be there. The song has a force that moves you. It is exhilarating like swimming in the ocean, but with the peaceful feeling that comes from communing with the fishes when you can’t see their teeth.

“Bed” begins with mournful notes followed by whimsy like unexpected socks on a person presumed boring prior. The topsy-turvy vocal melody syncopates with the guitar chords in a way that reminds the listener of the magic in between the bigger moments in life. “Netsuki” is a brief interlude before “Warm Death,” an ominous melding of sounds before a reassuring guitar-drum combo and Maya’s gliding vocals sing over the waves of rhythm as peaceful as an idyllic scenario in the rain.

“Fun” is a jangly tune that moves like a memory of being on an amusement park ride. With lyrics touching on the disconnect between appearances and perceptions, the song reminds us that sometimes while a certain pair of über high skyscraper heels may look cool, from an orthopedic standpoint, such footwear on a daily basis is a form of slow skeletal suicide.

The title track is a brief reverie, with notes hitting the air like rays of light from a prism. Then the album continues with “Driving,” a track that is at once light and heavy, like heavy cream, tediously but determinedly whipped by hand. Kyle takes over the vocals for “Sick Day,” a carousel ride on a herd of robotripping quadrupeds. The final track on the album, “Canvass,” returns the listener to Maya’s voice, as realistic as a rippling reflection in a puddle. If every song on Sunless is a different shade of gray pop, then “Canvass” is of a hopeful cornflower blue-tinged hue.

Sunless, rather than being a hollow album of danceable tracks of equal length, is a work of art that glitz and production value frequently fail to produce as a reflection of real life. Floating Room have created something devilishly delicious, like a spicy dark chocolate mocha from a café that offers different levels of chile, akin to the hotness scale at a wing place. Sunless may not be an immediate favorite of everyone who hears it, but if you are the sort of person who periodically has to remove your rose-colored glasses because the bridge tends to pinch your nose, then this album just might be for you. I am curious to see what a live performance from Floating Room looks like. That is yet another reason I’m counting the days until SXSW.

Gwendolyn Lewis Written by: