The debut release from Jake Chisenhall’s Delorean Gray project finds the Fake Flowers frontman ditching the dreampop of his shoegaze band and exploring the nuances of electropop and chillwave on his own. Kimera Sequence_1: Hokkaido Overwash is a brief concept mixtape that chronicles the life of the titular character Delorean Gray as he embarks on a celestial journey to Hokkaido IV—an artificial, off-world paradise for the aristocrats of Earth in the 27th century—and his attempts to return home in the midst of a nebular psychedelic trip.
Personally, it’s difficult for me to gravitate towards the modern rock opera. Writing for The Atlantic, Colin Fleming notes the genre was originally conceptualized by ’60s psychedelic band Nirvana (no, not that Nirvana) with their record The Story of Simon Simopath (1967), and it’s enjoyed a divisive history ever since. The Who’s Tommy (1969) and double album Quadrophenia (1973) typically enjoy the most recognition for this niche genre, along with Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979), but many others fall short of the grandiose nature inherent in opera, often due to the brevity that the particular subset of classical music doesn’t allow for. Chisenhall’s offering falls into this majority. But regardless, Hokkaido Overwash is a relatively satisfying endeavor that seeks to bring the modern opera into our own age with futuristic, dystopian themes and heavy synth work.
The 14-minute mixtape can be heard in full via Kimera Sequence_1, of which there are four parts. The first movement, “ICE FIELDS 氷原,” is a short prelude of which the sparse ambiance paints a picture of a hard and unforgiving landscape before leading the listener into the second piece, “HOVERBIKE.” Reminiscent of early Washed Out, it opens with a metallic arpeggiator and abrasive sawtooth bass. Chisenhall’s larghetto vocals add to the layers of synth pads that abound on this mixtape, clearly illustrating the singer’s ear for melody.
There are some moments on this mixtape that I really enjoyed, most notably the galactic call-and-response on “CLOSE ENCOUNTERS” when Chisenhall’s vocals echo each other. Then there are the opening measures of the title track led by a slower, sleepy beat that bumps and bridles. It’s less busy and more engaging than the two instrumentals the precede it, making it my favorite part of this EP.
While the mixtape does not lend itself to the extravagant nature of opera, Hokkaido Overwash manages to capture vignettes of the larger narrative, pieces of the puzzle that offer glimpses into Delorean’s journey. The synthesizers are nothing to write home about, but if we consider Chisenhall’s firm foundation in shoegazey guitar rock, we can concede to an experimental nature inherent in Delorean Gray. And as an experiment, it could be considered a small triumph.