When Ben Daniels, the mastermind behind Philadelphia's A Sunny Day in Glasgow, began tracking for his band's debut, he was guided by a simple principle: "I suppose the only thing I try to avoid is writing boring songs." The resulting album, Scribble Mural Comic Journal, and the forthcoming tour-only EP, Tout New Age, are full of disorienting but soothing electronica that is anything but boring. Daniels' songs morph and shift unexpectedly, resisting definite shape and upending listeners' expectations. It's a murky, mind-bending approach to making music, where instruments surface and disappear in the mix like a shipwrecked crew struggling to keep their heads above some very choppy water.
On the first few listens, his songs are also impossible—or at least very challenging—for human ears to process as pop music. Trebly guitars fizzle with distortion and washes of atmospheric synths shimmer, while a bedrock of metronomic beats implies an elusive structure. All the while, the voices of Daniels' sisters, Lauren and Robin, drift in and out of the songs, hauntingly disembodied. It's a deeply spatial production strategy, in which these conflicting sounds exist on different planes that only occasionally intersect for a common melodic goal.
On the one hand, the way these songs seem to pull at their own seams and risk falling apart charges them with an engaging sense of tension. But even if Daniels' collage-like compositions are as precariously executed as a tightrope walk, the overall effect is an entrancing wave of sound that soothes more than it unsettles. It's hard to imagine how the band could re-create such fine-tuned chaos onstage, but Daniels is all too happy to remain unpredictable.
"The listener is something I don't really consider at all [when writing songs]," he said. "I never really thought about the live versions of these songs as we were recording them. I don't think it needs to sound like the record; they are different experiences."