Seapunk seemed to spring out of nowhere sometime in 2012. For the uninitiated, the intro track of Whitely’s newest full-length, ‘Phantasy’, does a good job of summing it up; nautical thematics in sound and sub-bass-melodically-euro-pop dance in style. Often, the accusation that narrow stylistic requirements leads to copy-paste likeness is levelled at seapunk. Unfortunately, ‘Phantasy’ also does a good job at supporting these accusations.
To put it simply; ‘Phantasy’ is repetitious to the point of tears. Tracks throughout share incredibly similar song structures. Instruments are overused so much so, most of the album feels distinctly the same: a continuous watery grey. Tracks, ‘Remember Me’, ‘Coconut’ and the Zen Mantra remix take affective melodies or ideas and then drag them out until they become grating and lifeless. The problem mainly seems to be an attempt to stick religiously to seapunk aesthetics. Somewhere along the coast Whitely forgot he can write brilliant tracks and emotive melodies, as evidenced by his back catalogue.
However, when moments do work it’s often as a result of formulaic manipulation. ‘I Am Yours’ connects well, mixing seapunk with euphoric, trance-induced thrills, sounding like Avicii released a single on Coral Records. Also, album closer ‘Transcending’ is a fantastic, pounding, melancholic cruise through seapunk, mixing it with 80s electro-house via Hotline Miami’s soundtrack tones to great effect.
None of this improves the album’s overall quality though, which constitutes the lifeless and pedestrian cuts like ‘Caribbean Sunset’ and ‘Paradise Island’, the copy-paste beige of ‘Seacreatures’ and ‘Ride Those Dolphins’, and the simply forgettable and uninspiring title track. Whitely is not a bad artist, which is what made this album so very hard to stomach, but here he’s missed the mark by leagues, creating a patchwork of conventions with little emotion or creativity to be found.
Favourite track: I Am Yours
Special thanks to Stephan Tul for proofing.