Glossolalia (meaning “speaking in tongues”) is a fitting title for Partials’ debut recording. The word has a strong association with the otherworldly, conveying the notion of fluid sounds, rhythms and ideas. The music on the EP is full of interlocking vocal and instrumental harmonies, shifting tempos and an inventive use of language that gives the lyrics a flowing, untethered cadence. “People who speak in tongues believe it indicates the touch of the creator,” says Partials bass player, Thomas Bailey. “Today, all around us, machines are constantly speaking in tongues. We wanted to explore how that relates to humanity, automation and the space between the two. This is especially interesting in the context of machines that have no voices, but the voices we give them.”
The six musicians in the band - Dane Walsh, keys; guitarist Jeff Porter; singer, percussionist Adriana Thomas; sax player and guitarist Ian Edwards; drummer Alex Eversbusch and Bailey - have wide ranging tastes. They’ve played funk, soul and Afrobeat, before landing on a flavor of psychedelic dance music that aims to continue the tradition of Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem, without sounding derivative. “We reference the music that influenced the artists we love. We seek what they sought, then take it in our own direction,” Bailey says.
The sounds on the album were assembled with the help of producer and audio engineer Drew Vandenberg. “We recorded demo tracks at our home studio, thinking we’d layer up the tracks one at a time, using them as a reference,” Bailey explains. “It was an eye-opening experience to try and recapture the feeling present on some of those tracks. We’d often find something special in a random demo done in our basement, so they found their way into the final recording. Drew is an expert at getting the most powerful, emotional take you have in you. The six of us are very opinionated people, so we had our fair share of debates, but Drew would always advocate for what he saw was the best way forward for the music.”
“Anemoia” refers to the memory of an experience you’ve never had. The feeling is mirrored by the ambient, wordless vocals, glistening guitar tones and atmospheric synthesizer tones that introduce the song. The simple instrumental parts build and intertwine, passing the melody back and forth, slowly melding into a single voice. Thomas and Edwards echo the articulation of the bubbling guitar and the thump of Eversbusch’s bass drum.
The playful funk of “Man Made Machine” builds slowly, each instrument coming in separately to build up a frisky, inescapable groove. Warm bass tones and minimal chattering guitar dance around Thomas’s simple six-word refrain and, as her soft, sighing vocal unwinds, the lyrics morph into phrases that lose meaning, while taking on a greater significance. It’s hypnotic glossolalia at its best, goosed along by Walsh’s synthesizer alternating between melody, noise and sound manipulation.
“Polyglot” opens with a muted polyrhythmic groove played on the drums, augmented by Thomas’s quiet vocals. On the chorus, she’s joined by a simple African rhythm line, played on Porter’s guitar and a dark, intense synthesizer pulse that blends the sounds of human and artificial glossolalia into a cacophonous crescendo. Another quiet chorus builds into a call-and-response between bass synth and looping glossolalia melodies. The lyrics describe a narrator fixated on an inability to express themselves, making an ironic contrast with the linguistic skill suggested by the title. Despite the struggle, the song offers a morsel of hope through glossolalia, a tool for connecting with the divine and expressing the inexpressible.
Glossolalia’s six tunes are catchy and crammed with grace notes and lyrical touches that unfold slowly after repeated listening. “For this EP, we wrote 22 songs in one month, narrowing it down to the six you hear on the album,” Bailey says. “It was exhausting but empowering. Every day you wake up and think of nothing but how to make it through the current song. But it’s an incredible experience - you learn so quickly from your mistakes. We make music that works both for the head and the body, songs that are interesting to listen to on headphones in your bedroom, or to dance your ass off to at a party. Our live show reflects that. We let the songs breathe and work at developing an improvisational language that helps us make sure everyone has the same expectations going into a song. We embrace weirdness and catchiness with equal enthusiasm. Walking that line is what we’re all about.”