The solo project of Annelotte de Graaf, her days usually spent as a legal aide at the UN war crimes tribunal, Amber Arcades debut full-length is the result of her emptying her savings of $12,000 and jumping on a plane to from Utrecht to New York.
Recorded with a band assembled from Boston psych-poppers Quilt – whose Shane Butler and Keven Lareau contribute guitar and bass – and New Jersey janglers Real Estate (in the shape of drummer Jackson Pollis), Fading Lines has ten tracks of gauzy, echo-laden indie-pop for the desk-bound daydreamer.
Opener Come With Me extends a welcoming finger with layered, out-of-phase guitars and an off-kilter verse – de Graaf’s light, honeyed voice slightly buried in the mix – soaring into a chorus which veers the right side of staid.
Some other striking touches pepper the first six or seven tracks. There’s the watery swirl that introduces the fragile Constant’s Dream, which has some of the hushed grandeur of Mazzy Star, whose Hope Sandoval de Graaf occasionally recalls; the brittle drum machine, haunted vocals and Stand By Me bass of the excellent Perpetuum Mobile, as lush a salute to Broadcast as you could hope for, and the ghostly organ and distant slide guitar adorning the muted, Velvets-like Apophenia.
All too often, though, it’s a little weightless, washing over you pleasantly enough but, if grasped, falling between the fingers like so much glistening sand. Although there’s nothing particularly bad here, Right Now and the title track don’t do much to hold their heads above the pleasantly jangling waters peopled by de Graaf’s bandmates, while I Will Follow plods a little wearily.
But the last few songs suggest that Amber Arcades will have more interesting things to say: This Time sways like a twinkling, woozy Dusty Springfield lullaby, while the understated closer White Fuzz expands on the skeletal take that appeared on last year’s Patiently EP, half-drowned in shimmering tremolo.
Perhaps best of all, though, there’s the insistent pulse of lead track Turning Light, which weds thudding Suicide beats to steady, rolling bass and lambent, stringlike synth, bringing a lightness of touch to the rather overworked motorik sound.
Enticing, if inconsistent, this seems to be an album that de Graaf had dreamed of making, building on the pretty, prosaic folk-pop of her self-titled EP in 2013. On the promise shown here, we should hope that she keeps dreaming.