Don’t let the name stump you for too long, Dralms is not so much a word to define as it is a moving and moody force to be felt deeply, in the sublime haze of the twilight hours.
Dralms is the latest project from Vancouver’s Christopher Smith, who has veered from his softened singer-songwriter career into a more experimental and intimate partnership with a familiar cast of collaborators. Together with drummer Shaunn Thomas Watt (Siskiyou), keyboardist Will Kendrick (Failing), guitarist Rob Tornroos and bassist Peter Carruthers (Siskiyou), they’ve morphed the precious and pristine sounds of Smith’s solo-billed days into a head-swirling, nocturnal new direction.
Last year’s debut 7-inch single Crushed Pleats was but a preview, a two-song collection wrought from a miasma of smoky six-strings, dub beats and electronic textures that wove around the cloud-bound coos of Smith. The group’s Pillars & Pyre 12-inch single, meanwhile, added an air of mystery to once-familiar grounds. Originally presented on Smith’s 2012 solo LP Earning Keep, Dralms have refashioned the piece into a lightly funked-up post-rock exploration to soundtrack Smith’s life-pondering prose.
Whether in their practice space, or on stages across North America and Europe, Dralms continue to create a conscious-expanding catalogue. Likewise, recording sessions behind an as-of-yet undetailed full-length album have been underway at Vancouver’s Afterlife studios with John Raham.
The new material has expanded the group’s horizons to mystifying new heights, adding sensuous textures to the live template of guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. Dralms’ upcoming recordings are employing the soul-warming windiness of a melodica, the spirits-raising sounds of gospel vocals, and find the BC band further pushing the boom-heavy boundaries of dub-style tape echo. Simmering slow jams, for instance, are slathered in Watt’s ricocheted snare hits, Carruthers’ walking bass lines, and the quiet storm sensuality of Kendrick’s twilight-dusted organ tones.
As on Crushed Pleats and Pillars & Pyre, these latest compositions have also been graced by the conceptual electronic mastery of Andy Dixon (Secret Mommy, Caving), who dapples the tracks with dusky, ambient quakes and other assorted shivering sounds from behind the scenes.
Smith, meanwhile, has slowly been putting his own guitar down to focus on his vocals. Backed confidently by the rest of the band, he’s been using a heather of romantic hushes to analyze the political and ultra-personal, engaging us in dove soft discussions on concepts of purpose, social issues, to the taboos and misconceptions of our sex lives. Ultimately, his lyrics call these concepts into question more than they cast judgement.
Gracefully, Dralms are juxtaposing all aspects of the journey. Relishing the creak of light just as much as the dark cloud, they’re the soundtrack to our ongoing evolution. Dralms are mood for thought.