“Sliding Glass Nightmare” captures Small Reactions at their best—hypnotic, repetitive, and entirely catchy. Looking only to the band’s post-punk meets surf M.O., the song follows a natural progression from their debut LP Similar Phantoms (2014) and the lead single “Sessions Street” off their forthcoming record, RXN_002. In a point of departure for the band, the tempo is dialed back to a steady, slowly unfolding rhythm. Where moments of dissonance and noise played more of an active role before, here they serve only as brief moments of contrast to the track’s otherwise warm, motorik cadence. It’s this evolution that makes “Sliding Glass Nightmare” Small Reactions’ finest moment to date.
Like many Small Reactions songs, “Sliding Glass Nightmare” was born from a cast-off line at band practice. “I came up with the line sitting on my amp while everyone was packing up at a rehearsal. I think I played the main line and Sean told me to record it – that happens a lot,” guitarist and singer Scotty Hoffman says. “There’s definitely some of our songs that start from me doing god-knows-what on a guitar and Sean hears something in it. The song emerged fully formed in a way.”
LISTEN TO ‘SLIDING GLASS NIGHTMARE HERE:
The band built the song from there with drums, bass, and lead guitar falling into place organically. Capitalizing on their noise pop tag, the band couldn’t let the song get too pretty. The loud, jarring breaks towards the tracks center serve that purpose. “We wanted something dissonant to get us back to melody of that main line. Some songs benefit from a little bit of ugly,” Hoffman explains. “I hated those breaks at first,” drummer Sean Zearfoss adds. “I didn’t think they fit the song at first, but I eventually thought that they brought the song a little closer to Wilco’s ‘Via Chicago’ territory, with the beautiful then dissonant and unhinged set up, which is never bad. I gave in because of that thought.”
In another moment of change for the band, the song is awash in warm, droning, arpeggiated synths. If Similar Phantoms was built upon a pared down sound with basic instrumentation and few overdubs, then RXN_002 eschews that approach with a more layered, intricate, and dynamic sound. “Sliding Glass Nightmare” is evidence of that. Hoffman explains “I knew it needed synth – at one point I imagined the song totally guitar-less, so the synths were important. Especially on the outro – there’s no soloing or anything – just that arp synth washing away.” Where Small Reactions might have chosen for the song climb to the end, the synths allow for a more nuanced denouement.
The song’s images of rooms, glass, and fire in the lyrics of “Sliding Glass Nightmare” connect to the darker themes running throughout RXN_002. Hoffman isn’t following a narrative as with the rest of the record but, instead, confronting distinct images and places that fall together. RXN_002 is a dark record, certainly more so than Small Reactions’ debut LP or the smattering of EPs and singles they’ve released otherwise. The band identifies Brian Eno, Total Control, and as touchstones for the track Cindy Lee, but these influences aren’t worn on their sleeve—Small Reactions are heading towards a sound they call their own. There’s no clearer evidence of where they’re heading than “Sliding Glass Nightmare.”