Variant Sea: Journey – Potent and poised post-rock bliss – The Irish Times

Variant Sea: Journey - Potent and poised post-rock bliss – The Irish Times


Artist: Variant Sea

Genre: Ambient/electronic

Label: Self-Released

A change is good as a rest, we are informed. Several years ago, Dublin-based Shell Dooley, guitarist with Irish indie-pop band Montauk Hotel, took sanctioned periods of leave of absence from that band and started to collaborate with Reykjavik-based pianist and music teacher Luke Duffy on, as they say, something completely different.

Dispensing with jangly 1980s guitar pop that made Montauk Hotel such a good place to visit, for Variant Sea Dooley fashions textured, multi-layered guitars that knit with Duffy’s musical preferences, which veer towards Icelandic neo-classical composers Olafur Arnalds and Johann Johannson, and that island’s somewhat more vigorous ambient soundscape group, Sigur Ros. The blend of each musician’s skills is equally potent and poised, the kind of post-rock that doesn’t so much scare the horses as leads them to the hitching post and tethers them to it with a tender tugging of the knots.

The pair’s debut album (which follows their 2021 single, Wayfare, chosen for various “not exactly classical” streaming platform playlists) makes its presence felt but without the usual competing struggles for sonic one-upmanship. The luxurious pace is set by the likes of Submerged, Threads, Cradle, Undone and Awaken, each of which could give any ambient/neo-classical creator a graceful run for their money. Indeed, the title of the final track could well be the one-word review, if ever such a ridiculous notion arose: Bliss.

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