“Is this it? …I don’t think I want to be here,” utters Flowerthief on Optic Bloom’s “Part Time Friend.” The sentiment offers a starting point — if not an origin story — for the Boston duo’s debut record, Space Garden.
From that opening line, a new world starts swirling, as Optic Bloom establish their own, separate and fluid universe, filled to the brim with woozy beats bound to no genre. After delivering a holy trinity of singles last year, they shared their debut album Space Garden this past weekend (July 12).
Finally, the musical team of Dephrase and Flowerthief has turned their “vast inner galaxies” outward to share with the world — and Boston is better for it.
“There’s some weirdness, some newness, a sense of futurity which is cool because it implies that people like us who are marginalized for various reasons will not only continue into the future, we will help create that future,” Optic Bloom tell Vanyaland.
Strictly on a sonic level, Space Garden makes ample space for the genre experimentalists of the world, a fortuitous push forward for folks who don’t see the boundaries of musical styles. And yet, what truly elevates the album into the cosmos is its intricate yet welcoming environment for people who have been sorted into an “other” category their whole lives.
That’s what makes Space Garden Optic Bloom’s magnum opus — even though this is likely just the beginning of what the pair have to offer.
“A lot of our interactions with the external world have made us feel like aliens,” Optic Bloom explain. “There’s this perpetual sense of un-belonging that I think a lot of people experience, especially people with marginalized identities like black and brown people, queer and trans people, neurodiverse people, poor people, disabled people, etc. It can be really hard to cope with living in a world that’s hostile towards you. And so a question we held in this album was, ‘how can we take what we have been given in this outer world, in this outer space, and make it livable, make it thriveable?’”
The answer to that question is where the “space” aspect of the album meets the “garden” angle, melding into a healing ambiance. Field recordings amplify the record’s remedial bliss: “Most of the percussive sounds are derived from water droplets, walking on different natural surfaces (snow, leaves, water, grass, sticks, etc.), and various field recordings,” the duo explain.
Aptly, Space Garden puts both members of Optic Bloom and the listener in the position to tend to their own inner and outer spaces, finally able “to cultivate and be in relationship with a variety of inner-spatial experiences.”
“A lot of dharma teachers (like Lama Rod Owens, who is a black queer dharma teacher) talk about liberation and healing from trauma meaning we have more spaciousness in our experience,” Optic Bloom say. “We have more space around our trauma, our emotions, and our thoughts so we’re not collapsed into habitual responses to our internal space that can actually exacerbate our suffering. We can hold difficult experiences and still be able to move, be able to make choices in how we respond to our internal galactic experience.”
Best of all, once the record stakes out space for everyone — and it already has — it opens up a creative and personal zone that can’t be eradicated. Put simply: Gatekeepers “Can’t Get Rid Of Us” now.
“Some of the best music ever created in this city is being made and released right now,” Optic Bloom notes. “But it’s always felt like Boston music is on the cusp of breaking into the national spotlight, and then it doesn’t happen for some reason. We hope that we can contribute to the Boston music scene reaching the next step by releasing something that feels different from anything we’ve heard before, blending hip-hop and R&B elements with ambient textures, and touching on other genres like trance and house.”
Enter the lush bliss of Optic Bloom’s SpaceGarden below.