A Beacon School

Grind Select, 2018

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


On his full-length debut as a solo artist, Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Patrick J Smith builds bridges between surreal electronic music, shoegaze, and plain old pop. And he goes about doing this in the utmost unassuming and genteel way. The outcome is a subtle mix that’s got interesting personality but doesn’t scream for attention.


The album closer “Ash” sums up Cola perfectly. Soothing melodic guitars fill the space of this track that has soft pulsating synthesizers and carefully played drums. The gentle vocals tend not to dominate but instead make a brief appearance before allowing the instrumentation to take over the song completely, which has the sparseness of Kraftwerk-style minimalist electronic music. “It’s Late” is similar, but is more like a chilled-out dance number, in the same vein as Ulrich Schnauss’ work.

Opening cut “Algernon” has a dancy rhythm but is more upbeat, thanks to its warm and sunny guitar riff, sounding more like a conventional dream pop track. “Jcult” also has the cordial and playful feel associated with dream pop, with a lovely twist where Smith elevates the song’s sonic beauty with guitars that sound like they have been artificially chopped up and reassembled, which is really cool.

“Fade In Nylon,” “Glue,” “I Don’t Believe It,” and “Cut Thru” are more like traditional shoegaze numbers, with edgy yet melodic guitars. Even though these cuts are more energetic, they still resonate with Cola’s overall calmness and mellowness.

Dream pop can be a genre of extremes. On one end, it could be extremely aloof and suffocating in the interest of hiding its timidity, and on the other, can be cloyingly pleasing. Cola can be found somewhere in the middle, with just the right amount of mettle and affability, which is kind of refreshing. In fact, this disc is refreshing; literally, as listening to it feels like drinking a cold beer on a picture-perfect summer day – or cola for that matter. What an appropriate album title!

Rating: A-

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