Gap Dream (Photo: Jack Sample)

On This Is Gap Dream, his third full-length offering for Burger Records, Gabe Fulvimar, who records as Gap Dream, showcases a new breadth and depth. It sounds like reaching this territory has taken its toll on him. This Is Gap Dream is about personal reinvention and, by extension, musical reinvention. That the album’s title would be a more fitting title for a debut is a perfect touch.

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This Is Gap Dream finds Fulvimar in the grips of identity crisis, under his own feet and at his own heels, seeking normalcy despite feeling at odds with the wider world. Recorded over two years at the Burger Records vinyl warehouse in Fullerton, California, that Fulvimar resided in after moving from Akron, Ohio (where he played in a very early iteration of The Black Keys), This Is Gap Dream is hardly cohesive.

From the pulsing, synth-based instrumental of “Greater Find” to the moody tantrum of the fuzz-heavy “Party Foul,” Fulvimar indulges his urges and plays only to himself. That’s the point. This Is Gap Dream calls to mind early Sebadoh records for its freewheeling shifts in tone, unvarnished honesty, and raw production. Fulvimar wallows shamelessly in his fickle moods, imbuing This Is Gap Dream with reckless confidence.

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Thematically, the record is best encapsulated in an early pair of tracks: “College Music” and “24 Hour Token.” If “College Music” outlines the hypocrisy that gave Fulvimar cause to hold the world at arm’s length, “24 Hour Token” is him making his best case for participation in it. “Too many soft machines / No relation to the world / Unnecessary walls / Don’t ask me for shit, son,” he sings on the former, while the centerpiece of the latter is a beautiful harmony of his own lyrics interspersed with an earnest take on the Serenity Prayer, best known as a tenet of 12-step programs. This pairing hews largely to the pop template and marks the album’s most accessible and touching moment.

While This Is Gap Dream stands well enough on its own, all of its effects, intended or otherwise, are magnified when taken in the context of Fulvimar’s 2013 release, Shine Your Light. If the focused, synth-dominated Shine Your Light was a high point, a moment of transcendent perfection, This Is Gap Dream—a much more scattered and uncertain offering—is the hangover. Fulvimar falls short of expressing regret outright on This Is Gap Dream, but songs like “Party Foul,” whose lyrics include “Unlock the mind, I don’t want to use drugs,” beg the question of whether Fulvimar is pondering a different path in the days ahead.

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This metaphor of duality can be extended all the way to the album covers, both of which were created by Fulvimar. The cover of Shine Your Light is dominated by light, featuring a spectral blob in seeming motion against prismatic color, an abstracted flare-up of pure pleasure. The cover of This Is Gap Dream is dominated by darkness, save an impossibly narrow and possibly fading sliver of light. While Fulvimar does not resolve his struggles on This Is Gap Dream, he lays out a convincing argument for hope.

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