Control is the latest album from Constant Smiles. This project is spearheaded by prolific songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ben Jones. Jones has constantly collaborated with a lot of like-minded musicians, and it shows in this offering’s collection of expertly crafted sounds.
Control’s soundscape is dark and gloomy. Shaded with a dense layer of guitars and ambient shades to create its world. None of the music imposes too much on its listener, instead inviting them to find their own emotions through the thick fog of haze. Vocals are faded and layered, capturing a ghostly effect that blends well with the multifaceted use of guitars and shoegaze effects.
The album opens with “Felt’,’ a dark and moody instrumental. Akin to what you would hear from a movie soundtrack where the protagonist journeys through a harsh landscape. It broadly sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Only Love” follows up with somber dreampop, a hazy and contemplative piece with ethereal vocals, glimmering guitars and expressive violin. “Thawing Out” stands out with its use of synth pulses under an urgent motorik rhythm. Its frantic rhythm follows the mood of its character, one that is doubting their path and striving for a change: “How did I get here / where’s my life? / for you I hope to make things right.”
Although drenched in a thick cloud of mist, there are a few relatively bright numbers in here. “Swells” is a multilayered instrumental of lines that ebb and flow, it starts off slow yet gradually ascends to a hopeful end. “Floating” follows the same aqueous theme. Although wrapped in a dense and foggy environment, this song is wrapped in a hopeful promise: “If I could just believe / I’d give you everything you need.”
The most beautiful track is “All Drugs”, this time Jones’ vocals are at the forefront, boldly confronting his struggles with substance abuse. Accompanied by ghostly chants in the background that eerily paints the demons that haunt him.
Control’s strong atmosphere is where it shines. It’s an immersive experience that takes listeners through a melancholic dream, conjuring soundscapes that evoke the senses with stellar craftsmanship. This is the first album where Jones allowed his vocals to come in front of the mix, and it pays off spectacularly, as it drives the songs to a forward momentum while still keeping it esoteric and intimate for those who want a lighter listen. Another solid addition to Constant Smiles’ ever growing discography.