Bleary Eyed’s Guise is a dense and challenging release that Nathaniel Salfi says came from “a period of intense change” during his quarantine. Out today on Julia’s War Recordings, the LP features the most complex music to date from Salfi’s Philadelphia-based project.

The band’s releases date back to 2016’s tough, lo-fi Cherry Blossom EP, followed by the wiry zeeke and the LP Zach, which followed more straightforward grunge and alt rock influences. They leaned harder on shoegaze and pop sounds on the spacious Spectre Run EP in 2020, but Guise pushes them somewhere even newer: a fluid, bouncy mess of dream pop and noise rock, wet, swarming with electronic samples that remind me of MGMT and Animal Collective. Heavy-sounding, totally unpredictable, and sometimes even silly.

“[Guise] is a departure from our previous sounds in that some of the songs are electronic fuzz pop songs by nature,” Salfi says. Bleary Eyed has had a few lineups, but Guise came together while he worked at home, mostly alone. In the past year, Salfi explains, “I took some much-needed time to get in charge of my mental and physical health, which was important. Through some of those changes, I was concurrently falling in love with the production side of being a musician […] with some close friends teaching me about production along the way.”

Salfi programmed the electronics and played all the instruments himself, with additional vocals by Margot Whipps (heatloaf) and additional drumming in turn by Ben Verbeck, Coby Haines and Joey Mains. “We were blessed to have Sachi DiSerafino (Joy Again) do all of the mixing,” and Wesley Perlman complete the mastering, “who has an affinity for making things huge.”

The result is a screwed-up, jam-packed eleven-track run full of twists, with no room for breathing. I listen for the crunchy crash cymbals blossoming and choking up again under the mix – like a shoegaze and trip-hop calling-card, swapping with production touches that reference drum & bass and hyperpop. Sometimes (“sequence,” “common thought”) I hear a whole track glitching, heaving back and forward again, even vanishing completely and returning in a whole new shape. Some similar interruptions transgress the tracklist, like the hushed beginnings of “springblue” and “the well” that totally usurp their predecessors “take the car” and “caterpillar” without warning. Tracks like “lighthouse” and “this loss” offer more conventional grunge grooves and choruses, though, while “jenny” sounds the simplest of all.

Salfi’s melodies, in octaves or in unison, sound like lullabies, as fun as they are drowsy, though lyrics are sparing and leave you cold. I’m stuck inside a dream by the ending of “the well,” maybe among the figures fit on the cover in juicy blue and magenta. (Is one of them a diver, crumpling under pressure?)

Guise is out now via Philadelphia’s Julia’s War Recordings. Bleary Eyed plays a release show at PhilaMOCA Friday, August 25th with Sun Organ, Snoozer, Big Nick and acid freek, followed by shows at Songbyrd in D.C. September 5th and The Broadway in Brooklyn on September 12th.