Satchmode’s “In/Between” opens with a quietly crescendoing guitar arpeggio, layered over with echoes of reverb, a pedal steel keening in the background. Then, singer-songwriter-producer Gabe Donnay’s gentle falsetto weaves its way in: “Stayed up all night next to you,” he sings. “You were holding me tightly too, and I cried when the light came on through.”
“I never meant to leave you like this,” he finishes the verse. Then, it begins again, understated, inconspicuous, as if a note left on a pillow for a former lover. It has the quality of a lullaby, gentle and lilting, and yet it’s a sound of awakening—of learning one has to say goodbye—than a sound of reveries. Clocking in at just under three minutes, it’s sparse and fleeting.
Donnay, now 27, has been writing and recording as Satchmode for several years now, releasing two EPs that quickly gained momentum on Hype Machine. But it’s only with his upcoming debut, Love Hz, out Feb. 7, that he’s presented a full-length vision of the project. “In/Between,” which premieres exclusively on W, is a departure from the lead single “Happiness,” an ‘80s-inflected, bright, and jubilant track, and one with far more layers of sound than “In/Between.
“It’s definitely an outlier from the rest of the tracks on this album,” Donnay said, speaking from his studio in Los Angeles. It not only stands out in terms of sound, but also in its pure logistics—written within the past year, “In/Between” took just days to record where others, with their lush, densely populated sonic landscapes, were produced over a far longer period of time. For this track, he drew on a wellspring of influences like Robert Plant, early Wilco, The Frames’ frontman Glen Hansard, which he hadn’t previously tapped working as Satchmode.
“Those influences are closer to my roots,” he added. “They’re stuff I found earlier on in my musical life.”
Yet it’s not till after the song has been written that Donnay thinks about how it might fit in with the rest of the album, though, or even the direction the song has taken him—“the reflective work,” he calls it. And for all it stands apart from the rest of Love Hz, it’s still a piece of a tightly curated vision: “They’re all about emotions of loss and regret and guilt,” he said. “It’s about this idea of the loneliness and isolation that come from love.” It’s a bold, if somber, opening full-length statement, but then, by his own admission, Donnay is just out to find art that makes him feel.
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