Totally, the latest full length from former Nathan Williams collaborator Andrew Caddick under his Jeans Wilder moniker, begins with the sound rustling waves and a crackling campfire. It is an album of atmospherics. It relies on repetition to drive home the introspective and lackadaisical mood. We can infer that the sluggish pace and obscured vocals are intended to impart a druggy ambiance, only Wilder never quite penetrates the murky, narcotic haze. Instead, he relishes in the nebulous, beachside psychedelia and chooses to reinforce the mood with each track instead of expand upon it.
The field recordings of a campfire by the sea that begin Totally on “Blue Dream” become the backdrop for a fractured synth melody that flutters above atmospheric keys. The chord progression repeats and then disappears with a notable lack of vocals. Wilder effectively creates a mood with the opening track that is never quite veered from. He shirks traditional pop structure in favor of repetition, like a litany for inebriation. There is hardly a discernible structure towards any of the songs on Totally. Each is a variation on the theme that settles in to stay.
The next song begins with the ever popular “Be My Baby” beat and it doesn’t waiver. Guitar leads stagger in, establishing the vaguely “surf” references that occasionally reappear, and listeners are allowed the first glimpse of Wilder’s vocals. His indiscernible words are absolutely drenched in gratuitous reverb. The vocals are sopping, as if Wilder ventured from the campfire and fell into the ocean. It’s fitting that there is hardly an intelligible line on the album. There’s no psychedelic “beyond, beyond” rhetoric, only the organic nature of a trip. Of course, the track is entitled “Gravity Bong” and features a coughing fit midway through, in case drug use wasn’t obvious enough.
The waves, a campfire and coughing aren’t the only field recordings to appear on Totally. Crickets, dogs barking and cars whizzing by comprise the peripheral noises on “Maple Bars.” The extra sounds reinforce Totally’s effective atmospheric qualities. Frankly, a track like “Maple Bars” would flop if it wasn’t for the night time, alley way recordings. Otherwise, it’s a two note bass line, treated snare backbeat and completely washed out humming that might be too easy to ignore.
The tracks in which Wilder creates a groove, rather than a loop of rudimentary percussion, are the strongest songs when taken out of context. “Evaporated” and “Spanish Tile” would make a great 45. Both songs feature polyrhythmic hand percussion and imaginative synth performances. They are still mellow, nestling somewhere near the pleasure center in listener’s psyche and refusing to budge, but could still conjure a slow dance.
Even a casual glance at the track list illustrates Totally’s heavy-handed narcotic sheen. It reads like a stoned journey. A “Gravity Bong” starts things off, “Maple Bars” and “Limeade” soon follows, then the “Slow Burn” ensues. It’s a thematically cohesive album but, like the drug experience it seems to chronicle, time moves slowly and focus is allotted to normally insignificant details.