by: Days of Blue
Written By: Soft Replica
Published: July 8, 2022
Imagine you’re in a record store, aimlessly flipping through the crates. Through the sea of album covers, one in particular catches your eye: a nondescript, purple-tinged picture of a faceless figure in a hazy landscape. It seems like a real photo, but you’re not quite sure. You turn the record over to find that it’s named Blissful Days, and sports utopic track titles like “Morning Dew” and “Sun Kissed Skies.” Could the music possibly be as idyllic and tranquil as the presentation suggests?
The answer is a resounding yes, and it comes to us by way of California producer days of blue. Slushwave to its core, Blissful Days is the follow-up to their 2021 LP (titled Days of Blue, conveniently), an album which adopted a more cinematic ambient approach, and which, by the artist’s description, “began its conceptualization […] amidst the wildfires that ravaged my home-state.” Blissful Days also marks their first sampled work since the 2020 full-length 虚 (Imaginary). This time around, days of blue paints a decidedly more optimistic and comforting soundscape – a natural move when following such a somber release and electing to reintroduce samples to their toolkit. This brings me to the first major strength of the album: the sample choices themselves.As is common for slushwave, days of blue pulls snippets from a handful of sources, stretching, rearranging, and looping them repeatedly until they produce a world that could only be their own. While the origins may vary, they’re tied together by a few common threads: rich, emotionally-potent chord progressions and transcendent vocal melodies. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the second track, the 16-minute tour de slush that is “Morning Dew.”
Following the sprawling ambient opener “Dawn,” “Morning Dew” begins similarly sparse and nebulous. The introductory drone grows gradually, lulling you into a sense of ease until suddenly evaporating into harmonic bliss sprinkled with percussion. The transition is especially bold and unexpected after the free-form ambiance that comprises the record up to this point. As the song evolves and weaves between different movements, the 16-minute runtime begins to seem minuscule; the piece is so hypnotic that it could be extended into an album of its own. Thankfully however, there’s five tracks to go, and what comes next is another definite highlight.
“Blue Hue” starts as one may now expect: a slow, filtered fade-in, but the drop at 3 minutes yields yet another surprise – not only does this album have bass, but it’s groovy as hell. It’s here that days of blue solidifies their keen sense of pace, progressing from the amorphous opener, to the understated sway of “Morning Dew,” now arriving at a track you could slow dance to. It’s also during this piece that the vocal samples creep to the forefront, gliding atop the dense clouds beneath as if to serve as a guide in this surreal journey.
I could continue describing in detail the remaining four tracks in order, but in truth, the atmosphere this album conjures is somewhat beyond description and is best experienced firsthand. Instead, I would ask vaporwave fans to recall the first time they listened to a slushwave album and truly resonated with it. The intrigue of feeling alien and yet uncannily familiar. The contradiction of yearning for days long gone while also alluding to a distant future. The hazy loops pulling you under until you lose track of time. For me, it was t e l e p a t h’s cosmic lullaby, the 2015 monolith 星間性交 (Interstellar Intercourse), an album which days of blue cites as an inspiration.
Blissful Days takes me back to the wonder and mystique of experiencing 星間性交 for the first time, while still feeling like a logical step forward for the style; the mix sounds vivid and full despite an ocean of reverb and phasers, the theme is self-evident, and the visual personality oozes from every corner; from the album art, to the Bandcamp page, to the artist’s entire social media identity. Blissful Days by days of blue looks and sounds exactly like you would expect given the name: an escape into a lush, serene daydream.
Above all else, one of my favorite features of this album is just how patient it is, clocking in at 55 minutes with a mere 7 songs. The buildups are long, but never without payoff. Complementary samples relay back and forth at length to trance-like effect, never overstaying their welcome. Despite the album’s subdued nature, it boasts a quiet confidence under the surface, asking the listener to commit their time and trust, and in return offers a gorgeous aural experience that begs for another listen after completion.
The only factor that prevents Blissful Days from being utterly flawless is the closing track, “Sunset Gradient.” While an ear-worm in its own right, the song carries an easygoing mid-album groove in place of an opportunity to drive the release toward a thematic conclusion, a role which may have been better suited for the aforementioned “Morning Dew” or the flight-inducing “Sun Kissed Skies.”
In a time increasingly focused on disjointed streams of bite-sized content, the best slushwave often forces us to instead slow down and stay put for a little. Blissful Days is a cathartic respite that delivers exactly what it promises in this regard, and is sure to capture the hearts of fans of the style. The artist describes the work as “a journey of a day, from morning to sunset,” and yet it manages to feel infinite during its best moments. Fitting, given the album’s Bandcamp description, a mere 6 words:
“Soar the skies, enter neverending bliss…”
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