That This is Gap Dream begins with a shrieking, pulsating tone like a sped-up busy signal is perhaps significant. Gabe Fulvimar’s insistence on affecting noises in far-reaching aural avenues is sometimes confusing, even when it sounds good. Opening a supposedly cathartic third record with a space-y chillwave instrumental in “Greater Find” is risky, sure, but the sentiment blends right in with Fulvimar’s M.O. of kitchen-sink production. Besides, “Greater Find” gives way to the real centerpiece of the album—an unavoidably dark veil of songcraft, which is first heard in the creepy electro corners of “Rock and Roll.”
In this tune, Fulvimar dials up the reverbed vocals and dials in an 8-bit horror-game progression that yields eerie results while singing “It’s been a long time since I lost control on an open road/It’s been a long time since I went outside and went out of my mind.” A sparse tinkling of keys and the faint squall of guitar feedback provides limited respite from the otherwise chip-tune-owing instrumental (the result of Fulvimar’s sampling of Super Nintendo sounds). It’s this kind of song that lends credence to the existential crisis Fulvimar was purportedly experiencing while writing This is Gap Dream. You can sense the solitude and fear in his warbling slacker-rock epics, and the solitude went beyond sheer internal turmoil: Fulvimar also played every instrument on the album.
Sure, a dark pall is certainly cast over much of the record, but you wouldn’t know it by the choice of lead single “College Music,” a Lou Reed-inspired rocker replete with simple drums and a jangly little guitar accompaniment, with Fulvimar’s full-bodied harmonic flourishes leading the charge. It’s a bit of a ruse, sonically, even if the song is basically about robots taking over all human tasks, which is actually pretty depressing depending on what type of human you are.
“24 Hour Token” follows with Fulvimar singing “This is for the world I cannot see/Handed down time through memory/Given to the world with melody/This is for the world I used to know, passing by my window/This is for the person I used to be, happy for tomorrow.” The clever disguise of sadness and apathy, depression and pain through the peppy visages of pop music is an old trick, but one that sort of never really gets old. It’s in “24 Hour Token” that Fulvimar best hints at his mastery of such storied expression, barely able to obscure his secret horrors from the listener.
When Fulvimar does allow himself the liberty to be bleak, he does so with great lo-fi aplomb, as heard on the fantastically drab tunes “Party Foul” and later the creepy-as-fuck “153,” in which he is heard repeatedly to be sing-whispering “death rock” in some sketchy allusion to drug addiction, an obvious about-face from Gap Dream’s acclaimed 2013 LP Shine Your Light.
By the time you reach the crunchy opening of “A Stranger to Myself,” the album’s finale, it’s clear that this version of Gap Dream is a more contemplative one. Fulvimar is still as adventurous as ever in his pursuits of synth beats, ‘60s rock and other revered tenets of the lo-fi template; but his courage to spelunk into the innards of his own moral crises is both an admirable step as an artist, and a bit of a surprising turn of events for the previously happy-go-lucky soundscape Fulivmar had excavated.
Everyone goes to the dark side eventually. It’s those who’re able to cross back, or at least safely tread the line, that typically find the best things to write home about.