Despite “Seabed” being the English electronic act “Vondelpark”‘s first proper full length, it is safe to say that it is quite a shift in form from their previous musical identity. Prior to this release, Vondelpark released a series of EPs that was more in the realm of dance/house/electronica. With Seabed, the band wanted to challenge themselves a bit more to create a self-proclaimed “real album” and not just a collection of songs with a simple house dance-party vibe. While their signature R&B luster remained in tact, Seabed showcases a much more lo-fi and introverted musical vision, allowing a greater deal of longevity as a result.
Mentioning a comparison to James Blake is almost unavoidable. Vondelpark has an incredibly similar vocal aesthetic (see: heavily processed, heavily somber, and heavily English) to Blake, and at first the similarity may be off-putting as it’s such an intense likeness, but when you put that aside there is clearly a great deal of individuality in the musical vision behind what’s presented. What stands out to me, besides the samples of computer mouse-clicking and default Windows “bloop” sounds on the track “Blue Again,” is the heavily rhythm and blues influenced guitar riffs and well-fitting mumbled vocals. Your typical American Idol fan surely would have a hissy fit about the lack of lyrical clarity and showoff-ness, but artistically it works perfectly to both draw more attention to the music and add to the demure attitude of the album. Ultimately, even what could be seen as flaws on the album add to the intimacy of the music.
What really gives the album the longevity it has is that even though the tracks are so low to the ground and emotional in nature, the melodies are so tastefully done that they provide a perfect balance so that they’re intensely catchy but not too cheesy or labored in that regard. It’s easily to get hooked on the album by the immediacy of these hooks, and then later relish in the finer details as the ideas of the songs are already embedded in your brain. It’s tough to pull something like this off when 90 percent of your lyrics are unintelligible, but somehow Vondelpark pulls it off. In my opinion, the album is best listened to alone, with the lights out, when you’re about to go to sleep and the subconscious is at its most dominant.