Night Flowers chose to stick with their own name for the title of their newest EP, and indeed, the imagery is apt for a collection of pop songs that perpetually unfold as if blooming out of a dream.
“Bound,” the EP’s opening track, is also its most characteristic, languid harmonies lacing in and out of tidal waves of echo-guitar fog. Hester Ullyart’s vocals are airy and evocative, a light upper-alto touch that breezes through the dense layers of spectral guitars like beams of sunlight cutting through mist. The song’s chorus is effective in the ways in which it swings up out of the song’s low-laying gloom and up into higher registers and brighter tones, recalling similar moments from My Bloody Valentine or Ride or Galaxie 500. As a rule, the EP is a modern reframing of late 80s and early 90s shoegaze, all roiling cotton blankets of dreamy sound. In capturing that aesthetic, “Bound” is lovely, trading mainly in mood and texture, which also means that, like the EP which it begins, its value is deeply rooted in one’s relationship to music that slowly unfurls, songs that are perpetually ephemeral. Your enjoyment of Night Flowers will very much depend on what you do with it. Its glacial movements are bound for precise headphones or mood-music, and seemingly few places in between.
“Embers” is more fleet-footed, though its quicker tempo nevertheless moves through the vapor of cloudy guitars. But the song’s velocity means that melodies connect quicker and with more urgency, the sing-songy chorus directing its widescreen hooks with a bright eyed vigor that underlines just how successful Night Flowers are when they match their bleary-eyed aesthetic to more effervescent forward motion. At three minutes, “Embers” comes and goes rapidly, especially considering how much more ground it covers in relation to the slow blossom of the rest of Night Flowers. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are a modern touchstone here, as are The Cure in their happier moments, and indeed, like Pains, Night Flowers are a band that have undoubtedly figured out how to make spry music that nevertheless sounds weary, ultra-romantic, crushed. Night Flowers’ gifts for harmony, and their rich, pastel sound seem primed to make this kind of rainy-day pop. It’s a shame that the EP, while lovely as a dispatch of mood and tone, doesn’t cheer itself up more often.
Which isn’t to say that the band’s slower moments are without value. “Neverlands” moves like melting snow through breathy verses and slightly brighter choruses, never changing so much as momentarily warming and cooling in equal measure. It puts the bands knack for details at a premium, each ivy coil of reverbed guitar coming in and out of focus becomes wholly essential, adding texture and detail to the song’s gauzy impressionism. Again, if your sensibilities are pitched toward relationships with music that delight in this kind of attention, then Night Flowers is quick to reward and indulge that care. These are four songs that come and go like slow-dissolve shots of landscapes, and there is a definite pleasure in trying to accumulate the small details and accents that, to a less careful ear, can simply sound like ridges on a flat surface.
The EP closes with “Summer Rain” (again, wholly evocative of the short album’s blend of brightness and haze), a guitar-first up-tempo jog that manages to blend Dinosaur Jr. indie-rock blitz with more of the Night Flowers’ out-of-focus romanticism. Indeed, the gloaming indirection that makes the album mostly a pleasure is a bit frustrating here, as the chorus passes by like a distant cloud, burying the album’s most salient melodies in wispy harmonies. If “Bound” makes a virtue of its slow shimmers, then “Summer Rain” feels like a song that could have used more of the warmth that allowed “Embers” to cut through the bands heaviness. As it stands, “Summer Rain” is a lovely song that feels like a near miss. That the high-wire lead guitars are able to cut through so effortlessly as the song’s hook is left too far back in the aural field can’t help but register as a shame, despite how much one might welcome the song’s return to a quicker pace. What ultimately registers are the careful balancing acts that define Night Flowers, the obvious attention to detail that this kind of misty indie rock requires, and the imagination it occasionally asks of its listeners. Night Flowers offer an EP that can be utterly captivating, but its considerable charms are far from instant. Like a dreamy canvas awash in colors, you’ll likely have to make out your own images.