Released with minimal hype by Electric Buffalo Records at the end of a blustery April, Resolve Yourself, the first release from Inspiraling (aka Gil Israel ’16), seems far divorced from landlocked Ithaca. The album occupies a beachy vein that tenuously falls under the surf-rock heading, but mostly rides its marriage of keyboards and hazy guitars into a nebulous realm. Few of Resolve Yourself’s tracks channel powerful momentum. Rather, they slowly drift along like musings from a lazy, sun-drenched afternoon.
Resolve Yourself resembles early releases from slacker-rocker Mac DeMarco. Although Inspiraling does not share DeMarco’s propensity for composing around guitar, both artists favor eerie, understated tracks that imbue the listener with a strain of relaxation cut with unease. A slightly anxious malaise marks Inspiraling’s thoughts on sleepiness and stilted romance that parallel DeMarco’s melancholy and worries about lost youth. Yet, while DeMarco’s tracks play like send-offs from a monotone beach, Inspiraling’s hail from a musical elsewhere.
Specifically, Resolve Yourself’s instrumental tracks wander into a field of sprawling ideas and raw sonic material that somewhat resembles the collages of German experimental rockers Faust. On the album’s fourth track, “You Know Me,” jazzy drums pass through, synths flit in and out and a strange rustle simmers just beneath the surface. Unlike the work of instrumental mainstay Ratatat, Inspiraling foregoes a conspicuous verse-chorus division in order to promote a feeling of indefinite suspension. Resolve Yourself’s instrumental tracks have the potential to stretch out for hours, caught in a gleaming amber, bur Inspiraling caps them all under five minutes.
“Mindfulness,” Resolve Yourself’s antepenultimate track and third instrumental song displays Inspiraling’s most interesting composing and recording. For four and a half minutes, he offers slight alterations on the track’s main theme, constantly reworking the different nooks and crannies of a hazy realm. A multitude of instruments take their time in the foreground. After a brief synth intro, Inspiraling tosses in a straight snare-bass-snare-bass drum part that breaks from the understated funk drumming that dominates most of the album. A perpetually moving bass line and a smorgasbord of synths fill out a soundscape in which every part is always in the same neighborhood, but never locked into one restrictive groove.
Inspiraling’s instrumental tracks, however, constitute less than a fifth of Resolve Yourself and intersperse lyrical songs that attain varied levels of success. The entirety of Inspiraling’s release has a purposeful lo-fi vibe, and many of Inspiraling’s tracks play far more like demos than fully fleshed out products. This still-in-production aesthetic in fact propels a number of the album’s most compelling songs.
Despite Inspiraling’s propensity for slathered synths and thick hazes, Resolve Yourself’s simplest tracks are its most compelling. Save for a few synth swells, “Exhausted” features a minimal beat, plucky guitars, understated bass and a clean piano line that accentuates Israel’s vocals. Israel’s voice has an unmistakable nasal twang that allows him to deliver his simple lyrics with a straightforward, unremarkable delivery.
Resolve Yourself’s standout track — “Dangerous Machine” — deftly fuses Inspiraling’s quirks (simple but odd lyrics, understated guitar and bass lines, lo-fi production) into a whole that transcends its parts. None of “Dangerous Machine”’s elements are captivating on their own but, when taken as a unit, the track mesmerizes. Despite the album’s presiding surfer tone, “Dangerous Machine” has a distinctly grunge core that is undoubtedly bolstered by Israel’s deadpan delivery of earnest lines. At the end of one verse, Israel croons about his desire “to be the person with no fear/always liked by all those near.” Many of Resolve Yourself’s tracks, however, seem underdeveloped rather than brooding and subdued.
“Right Before You,” for example, channels a few funk and soul motifs, but falls flat without any palpable energy driving the song. The same issue plagues earlier tracks “Breeze” and “The Reach.” None of Inspiraling’s songs are failures per se, and rarely does Israel noticeably flub a part, but the majority of Resolve Yourself’s tracks play like demos rather than finished songs. As such, it is difficult to figure out exactly how to evaluate Resolve Yourself. As a collection of demos, it’s an excellent release that plays like an exposition of the tools in Inspiraling’s camp: proficiency holding down the bass and drums, a good ear for simple, straightforward guitar and piano lines and a rich library of interesting synths. As a finished product, however, the album fails to deviate from a lackluster center. The majority of the tracks sound like skeletons that provide a basic structure and a few interesting textures or riffs to distinguish one song from the next. Inspiraling seems to have halted after this first step, however, and neglected to imbue any of his tracks with visceral energy.
It is important to note and respect, however, that Electric Buffalo Records and Inspiraling released Resolve Yourself with considerably less hype than _____’s Paralanguage release a few weeks prior, and the album should perhaps be considered an introduction to Inspiraling’s ideas rather than a full realization of them. If thought of as a teaser for future projects, Resolve Yourself is an exciting project. Inspiraling’s lo-fi production, understated lyrics and hazy ethos are all elements that, if pushed further, could lead to excellent, interesting songs.
Shay Collins is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].