Many musicians talk about receiving inspiration from above, but when Guy Blakeslee says it, he means it literally. “For a while, I was living in Idlewild, California, which is this really isolated town in the mountains near Joshua Tree,” he says. “At that particular time I was grappling with some substance abuse issues and not getting a lot of sleep. One night, in the middle of the night, I was recording, and I looked out the window and I saw this strange light. And then I realized that there were quite a lot of them, and they were behaving very strangely. So I spent around a week where, all night every night, I was watching the sky, looking at these strangely-behaving lights.” The more he thought about it, the more Blakeslee’s intergalactic experience began to take on metaphorical significance. “I didn’t know what it was that I was seeing, but what happened from having that experience was that I surrendered to something that I didn’t understand, and that was the beginning of a spiritual awakening.”
Blakeslee channeled that awakening into Ophelia Slowly, a sweeping, passionate collection of synth-driven songs worlds removed from the spiraling guitar-psych Blakeslee made as a member of Entrance Band. On Ophelia, Blakeslee’s voice is front-and-center, and the songs have a scope and weight that reflects the gravity of the subject matter. It tells the story of a man moving from darkness and addiction to light and release. “One of the underlying themes of the record is that when everything seems like it’s totally fucked, you can throw your hands up and turn it over to this cosmic power.”
Ophelia, which Blakeslee recorded with longtime friend Chris Coady (Beach House, Future Islands), feels more like theater than a rock record. Despite their simple arrangements — most contain little beyond synths, guitar and a primitive drum track — they feel ornate, and Blakeslee pours himself into each note like an actor disappearing into the role of a lifetime. You can hear all of that in “Kneel and Pray.” It opens with a broken Blakeslee waiting all night for “the salvation train,” until he spies the mystic vision out his window that will change his life.
“A lot of what this album is about for me is using my own voice to open up my heart and express something emotional,” Blakeslee explains. “Hopefully, I’m putting something out there that will connect with other people.”
[Ophelia Slowly will be released on June 10 on Everloving Records]