There is a state of human consciousness called the hypnagogic, when we’re not quite awake and not quite asleep. “Rigid conscious thought starts to dissolve into the gently lapping waves of early stage dreaming and the world becomes a little more hallucinatory, your thoughts a little more untethered,” clinical psychologist Vaughan Bell writes in The Atlantic.
Rosary Guild conjures the hypnagogic on “Fauna,” the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., band’s upcoming first full-length album. Hazy swirls of sound envelop the listener, rhythms coalesce then fade away; vocals, sometimes crisp and easily discerned, other times obscured by sonic clouds, lament lost loves and make reference to nature and religion.
“Your Heart, My Jar,” opens the album with a hazy soundscape and sound effects making way for William McHale’s vocals to peak through. A melody begins to form, then drums and bass add structure. It’s dreamy, shoegaze-y indie rock that falls somewhere between Slowdive and The Antlers but is not derivative of any particular genre or act. “Criminal” takes a shorter road to get to the point; the rhythm track is there right from the start, with an insistent drum beat holding things together.
DEBUT: Rosary Guild, “The End of It All”
“Flower Girl” is a beautifully downcast elegy for someone who was not appreciated until she was gone. Tom-toms struck with mallets help create the moody feel. “No one ever really knows what’s underneath until it grows/ After all this precious time a tangled mess of leaves and vines,” sings McHale. “Sleeping Braid” is much more straightforward, with strummed acoustic guitar and a more standard song structure, but effects on the vocals keep us in the hypnagogic realm.
While shoegaze and dream pop seem to be the primary influences on Fauna, other elements appear to be at play. Jittery drum beats and a taut guitar pattern on the breathtaking “Sleepwalk” recall Radiohead; there might be some Death Cab For Cutie buried in “No One Home”; brush through the mist on “The End of it All” and you might hear Jimmy Eat World. “Broken Arrow” is gothic folk — “no one will miss me,” McHale sings — with clarinet.
The lyrics on “Fauna” work in harmony with the music, and religious imagery is a particularly vivid device. A few highlights: “Count all the blessings that you sold” (“Sleeping Braid”); “Shalt Not Covet” draws from the 10th commandment; “Your parents will be proud as you bleed from your palms” (“The End of it All”); “Heavenly Father/ oh won’t you send me/ something to die for/ in my late twenties” (“Broken Arrow”); and while the song doesn’t have lyrics, the closer “So Long” fades out on church bells.
“Fauna” will reward repeat listens; let it take you to worlds both familiar and strange, comforting and scary, asleep and awake.
Rosary Guild will perform at an album-release show at Karl Hall (57 B N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, Pa., 18702) on Saturday, Oct. 27.