Since the dawn of the species, humans have documented their lives. First through cave paintings, then, as technology progressed, through books, art, photography and so forth. The motivations may vary, but there is one thing which unites them – keeping the memory alive. Doug Stanford, a one-man band from Winchester performing under the moniker of YNICORNS, surely had something like that in mind when releasing “Before We Knew Love and Loss”, a collection of songs he’d written in 2013.
BWKLAL is not another super long post-rock name that’s supposed to sound emotional. It is actually the clue to understanding the meaning of the album. The songs on this EP describe Stanford’s life before “love and loss”, both of which put his life onto new tracks. Love occurred to him after the birth of his son. Loss, after losing a close family member. The EP serves as a way to appreciate changes and move on after all the things that happened. It is also quite a clever lesson – Stanford expresses his realization that no matter what, there is no way to avoid good and bad stuff. It may hit you in the face, but after all, what is life about if not embracing change? The cover art, the only thing from this year instead of 2013, shows Stanford’s slow but steady acceptance of changes and the prevalence of “love” over “loss”.
RELEASE DATE: 01 August 2015 LABEL: Self-released
It is, however, the music not the narrative that serves as the medium of expression. Stanford serves a skillful blend of ambient and post rock with a pinch of emo-esque arpeggios. His main instrument of expression is guitar – similarly to other instrumental solo artists, like Lowercase Noises, he uses billions of effects pedals and loopers (as well as screwdrivers) to achieve his sound. You can hear how Stanford’s live experiences are influencing his songwriting on BWKLAL – the songs start with a single theme to which he adds more and more tracks, creating a richly textured soundscape. While guitars provide the melody and the background, the glue that binds them together are little sprinkles of glitchy percussion. With all these combined, “Before We Knew Love and Loss” becomes a platform to express Stanford’s nostalgia and hope. Tracks flow smoothly – beautiful and haunting melodic post rock/emo meets ambient spaciousness. Their development is very natural, which makes BWKLAL a perfect album to put on in the background. However, its emotional impact makes it more than just background music.
Music was always a means of expression of feelings – as is every discipline of art. Doug Stanford in “Before We Knew Love and Loss” takes a look back at his life. It is the kind of look one would give to a leaving train that carries someone we care for. However, it’s also a look full of hope for what’s to come .There’s still so much to live for, there are still people who we want to make happy. I think this is what BWKLAL is about – realizing that we have to move on and find light in spite of darkness.