Miserable chillers – Cider Palace

The work of Miguel Gallego has appeared on Various Small Flames numerous times in the past few years, both that of his former band Dicktations and his solo project Miserable chillers. The two acts hint at the diversity and scope of Gallego’s musical output, the garage rock of the former itself spanning a variety of genre styles, and the experimental pop of the latter likewise refusing to sit still and be boxed into any one subcategory.

Gallego is back with a brand new Miserable chillers album, and is once again pushing the boundaries of the project. To be released this February on Baby Blue, Schoënblintsjia expands the aesthetic beyond synth-driven sophisti-pop into a more experimental, ambient-focused sound.

We’re delighted to be able to share ‘Cider Palace,’ the lead single from the record, to back this up. The song combines the organic wash of field recordings with an improvisational acoustic foreground that accentuates the mindful and strangely melancholic textures. The effect is a sound that feels less like a lived moment and more a memory, some aspects smoothed and blurred, others washed out or glitchy, and all wrapped in a fondness reserved for the backward gaze.

“The track combines acoustic improvisation with a field recording of the wild monk parrots living in Edgewater, NJ,” Gallego says, “a town I lived in briefly after graduating from college. They are very loud birds that live in apartment style in large nests that lined the electrical poles of the street I lived on. To me, they were a very striking presence that imbued the ordinary and quotidian with this surreal quality; some process of history akin to ship wreckage coming ashore, mounting up, threatening to topple over as you’re walking to the bus stop to commute to work.”

Those of you familiar with Dicktations or read our review of their record back in 2016 might recognise the spirit of ‘Cider Palace’. “It was a weird time of my life that I wrote a lot about on in the Dicktations album ‘Super Paradise’,” Gallego explains, adding that the same field recording appeared on that album too, “but revisiting it […] was an interesting experience in reacquainting myself with this particular iteration of my once-everyday.”

Indeed, the time and space between Gallego and his past allowed its full peculiarity to emerge, and as such the song represents a meditation on ideas of habituation and  “[The] strangeness [is] more pronounced outside the context of its living-with,” Gallego says. “I kind of think of the processing of the guitar improvisation as a kind of enactment of that estrangement; a motif repeated with only mild variations but submerged in different subjectivities as it goes on.” What seems normal now might not always be so, and by the same logic the surreal can grow familiar too.

Schoënblintsjia will be released on the 22nd February via Baby Blue.

Artwork by Jill McFarland