Album of the Week: Gundelach – Baltus

Gundelach’s debut album has landed and it’s everything you thought it would be. Jangly guitars, emotive synths and toe -tapping beats pour forth from the artist’s deepest depths, underscored by that haunting falsetto at the foreground of the Gundelach sound. After releasing the self-titled EP two years back to a great reception, Gundelach has been constantly on tour, all the while –unbeknownst to us – putting the finishing touches on his debut LP. As an LP, “Baltus” consolidates the sound that Gundelach first introduced to the world with “Spiders” in 2015 with one of the most distinct voices in pop music today.

Baltus combines elements of modern R&B and eighties synth-pop in wispy arrangements that touch on something soulful. Gundelach’s lyrics explore familiar themes in love-songs, but in an abstract way that could be referencing a jilted lover or performance anxiety; the true meaning of the words hidden amongst stereo-types and clichés. The lyrics however appear superfluous to the melodic reverie in Gundelach’s voice which communicates something visceral and urgent in its delivery.

The familiar falsetto draws the listener close through cloudy reverbs and delays expounding on minimalist arrangements with the music relaying the emotional depth rather than the lyrical content. An extended vowel or a rhythmical consonant galloping in time with the percussion expresses something universal in the abstract that speaks to every individual in a unique way while textures with their origins in guitars, synthesisers and drum machines – all performed by the artist – create a soft harmonic bed for the singer’s unique voice.

Gundelach plays on various moods through “Baltus” . In “Hurt” and “Iron” there’s a Stranger-Things-like melancholy evoked, which completely disappears when Ary joins the artist for the  dance-floor friendly “Games” on the first track on the B-side. Even in that very upbeat moment, there’s an entrenched sadness there that’s possibly best reflected through the other Ary collaboration on the album and the lead single “Past the Building”.

There’s no discernible evolution from the first Gundelach release, nor are there any surprises. There might be a confidence lingering in the background that first EP helped cement, but that strand is tenuous and insubstantial. “Baltus” breaks no new ground in the Gundelach sound, but rather fortifies what was already there, cementing the career of a pop artist on the rise.