Written By: Joe Brown
The Counter Culture is also known as the psych rock, jangle-pop solo project of Jamie Thompson, based within the United Kingdom (split between Edinburgh and Aberdeen), which brings together an eclectic range of easy-listening and tranquil shoegaze sounds in one tidy bundle: the concise, debut 8-track EP, “Lost in the Underground” officially released just this week for “Free Download” in your choice of quality/format from Bandcamp.
“Lost In The Underground” sonically harks back to the influence of fellow Scots, The Jesus and Mary Chain, in the laid-back and minimal instrumentals reminiscent of the latter’s “Just Like Honey,” coupled with the hazy, subdued vocals that saunter in and out of the soft collage of sound. The vocals haunt the record with several cameos that appear as if off in the distance before dissipating into soundscape. There’s no real rush or push to the album as it drifts from one track to the next with the warmly murky, lo-fi sludge of “Surf Fuzz” and “Drones,” and then slips right into the swirling dreamwold of ”Blue.”
A slight, stuttering undercurrent to “Surf Fuzz” stops the listener from being lulled totally into a calm trance as it also highlights the nonplussed unease that is the subtle foundation for the album, as some rough, yet lucid, textures move in and out of each other. In this heady give-and-take of the sound, it can be easy to find yourself drifting off into your daydreams; The Counter Culture‘s sound is by no means a rocking and frenzied “heavy psychedelia” which is the path most contemporary artists seem to be favoring. Instead, there are elements that keep you grounded and a slowcore energy that is calm and wise and in control. You’ll hear on “Drones,” that the guitars are only a transparent veil of wailing feedback and piano tinkerings. It’s almost subliminal in it’s approach, yet it wouldn’t be as effective any other way. This approach of layered and embedded motifs accompanied with gently strummed guitars make for a soul-stirring mix of earworms that slowly hypnotizes and captivates its listener, much like a beautiful, yet sinister, siren, drawing in her prey. It’s not until “Blue” that things become a bit more complex with a more adventurous melody coming into play that seems to swerve around delicate musings, building a sound that combines a busier composition, all the while maintaining the chilled-out, soothing vibrations.
And the brief interlude, “Glisten,” does exactly that for us, creating a floating and meditative energy. It features glistening synths that are underpinned by a sorrowful riff from the guitar as an undercurrent of ocean waves rush at the floor of the sound, surrounding the listener in melancholy. The nostalgic melancholia quality continues through “Heartburn” and into “Alight” where strange reversed samples come through to bring you back to a sense of “the familiar.” It’s not immediately within your comfort zone, yet it’s still comfortable as the album seems to play with the listener’s boundaries with its gentle, distorted lullabies. The final track, “Who Knows When,” descends into a psychedelic soundscape as phased swooshes interject to and The Counter Culture introduces what is probably the most upbeat passage off of the “Lost in the Underground”, which brings a definitive closure to the EP as it references earlier elements and subtly picks up in pace, just in time to shake you out of the warm haze and right back to reality.