Posts Tagged ‘Shoegaze’

Christopher Nosnibor

Pierre Massé, the man behind the Paramestre project, threatens ‘Electronic-ish music with human vocals, guitars (played by a human), and far too many effects (along with a healthy dose of digital manipulation)’. It’s an intriguing proposition, and is it even possible to have too many effects, at least when used well?

As Massé explains in the liner notes, ‘As stated by the opening track, it is nothing “perfect”; there are artefacts from tortured source material, there is noise, there are glitches from randomized effects processing, and there is no pitch correction. But there is also warmth, groove, melancholy, and hope. I hope you find something that speaks to you amidst it all.’

This is, to my mind, a succinct summary of why any artist creates; in the hope of there being a shred of commonality with the receiver in the work. But, at the same time, creating not with the audience at the forefront of the creative process. This, ultimately, is what differentiates art from entertainment. The latter is primarily commercial, designed for the (perceived) audience. Art exists for its own sake, and any audience it attracts finds it.

Rippling post-rock guitars with an almost Spanish vibe cascade softly over a dislocated beat that bumps and bounces and flickers on the aforementioned opening track, providing a supple, mellow backdrop to Pierre’s dreamy, soulful vocals, and it’s a smooth, Gallic air that permeates the lilting synth pop of ‘Elle’. It’s pleasant, but it’s not an instant grab by any means, and much of Conditions Initiales feels in some ways exploratory, tentative. It isn’t that the songs themselves feel incomplete, because they certain don’t: it’s more that one feels Massé is still working towards a sound that is one he’s entirely comfortable with, that translates his sonic ambition into the final recorded output.

‘Conceal/Reveal’ goes a shade darker, but it’s the subdued waltz of the seven-minute ‘Madeleines’, with its echoing sampled background conversation that creates a subtle but clear level of juxtaposition, that really draws the listener in, in search of its evasive heart amongst the layers.

And it’s when Massé goes still darker and brings thudding beats to the fore that Conditions Initiales really becomes interesting: ‘Carry’ and closer, ‘Endless’ are both sparse but feature more prominent percussion, the latter worthy of favourable comparisons to Depeche Mode.

Understated as it is, Conditions Initiales contains no shortage of detail, and it’s an intriguing debut that hints at even better to come.

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7th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I suppose I’m fortunate to move in the circles I do. In both the real and virtual world, I’m surrounded by some remarkably talented creatives, working in all fields. Many seem to have found new outlets for their creative leanings under lockdown, in many cases probably for the sake of their sanity.

The emergence of a brand new act, VVolves, proved as welcome as is was unexpected, because the duo’s debut, a blend of shoegaze and cool synth pop, is a belter.

‘Momentum’ is a brilliantly kinetic, driving tune that kicks in solidly after a gentle, spacious intro. I’m a sucker for a song that locks into a groove and feels like it’s surging forwards because of, not despite, the repetition, and ‘Momentum’ absolutely does that: a repetitive chord motif, overlaid with chilly synth stabs and a propulsive drum track which contrasts with the ethereal vocal delivery. In combination, it’s an exhilarating rush.

We need more of this, please.

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Only Lovers Records – 27th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This is an album I’ve been on the edge of my seat for for quite some time: their debit, Observed in a Dream was fully four years ago, which feels like an eternity. The two preceding singles set the bar for expectations for Prepared For A Nightmare – preparing us not so much for a nightmare, but a haunting set of songs that built on the foundations of its predecessor, flexing new muscles, pushing new boundaries.

The title track raises the curtain in grand style, brooding drama filtered through a misty haze of reverb. The guitars wander in and out of key along doric scales that spin a gothy twist to the echoey psychedelic surf vibe.

After a mid-tempo opening salvo, ‘Ludwig Meidner’ steps it up with full-tilt rolling drums reminiscent of The Danse Society circa Seduction, blended with The Cure on Pornography. There are cold, needling synths in the mix undulating across the thunderous barrage of percussion and the sound’s filled out by a low-slung bass groove while Trond sings about ‘dancing on your grave’: the lyrical themes and musical style remains unchanged, but what is different is that there’s more space, which conjures a different darkness.

‘The Night Before’ is a doomy, gloomy trudge, sparsely set and more about layers than rive – which is perhaps true of the album as a whole this is more focused on detail, on nuance, on atmosphere. Closer ‘Endless Shimmer’ hints at all the shoegaze, even op, and it’s in the mix, but it’s taut, dense, and dark and there’s a tension that simmers beneath that’s hard to pull apart. The fadeout on ‘Goldmine’ seems a little odd, but perhaps that’s as much about fashion as anything. The 80s… This is so reminiscent as to be a repro in some way. But it’s ok: there’s no sense that any of this s forced or artificial. Prepared For A Nightmare oozes song quality and a richness of performance and appropriate production. It’s seriously hard to fault any of it.

Prepared For A Nightmare is definitely darker and deeper and less immediate than its predecessor, but it’s all the better for it.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Word-fads come and go, and I’m as guilty as the next music journo hack-merchant of repetition and overuse, but I’ll make no apologies here, since this 7” revisits the early 90s zeitgeist with a breathtaking accuracy. Yes, I used both ‘zeitgeist’ and ‘breathtaking’ and I hate myself for both. But what I don’t hate is this release by Orchids.

This is a blizzard blur of vintage shoegaze noise, with ‘Dead Keys’ abrim with angling guitar and epic reverb and all the FX, with the result being a melt-together of early Ride and The Charlatans with latter-day exponents of psych-tinged shoegaze like The Early Years.

They whip up some blistering walls of noise across the two tracks here, while also delving into some spaces of motoric indie as guitars burst all around.

‘Another Day’ follows a similar template, a motoric beat and thudding bass groove underpinning a repetitive guitar line that rattles away in a wash of reverb, and it plugs away at that thing that it does for a hypnotic four and three-quarter minutes, to hypnotic effect.

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Orchids

BlackLab, ‘the dark witch doom duo from Osaka, Japan’ are poised to return with their new long playing record Abyss.

Recorded under a full moon over three intense days, the album has the ‘off the leash’ abandon of ‘Fun House’ era ‘Stooges’ and is marked by a fat dose of doom meets slowed down hardcore punk; filled with loud, ultra distorted guitar, and yet, a surprising amount of melody as well.

In fact, Yuko has said that the band’s name is a combination of Black Sabbath and Stereolab, well here on Abyss is where that strange mix begins to make musical sense.

The band haven’t lost their love of lo-fi or ‘Riot Grrrl’ attitude.

The guitars are loud and heavily gnarled to the point of chaos.

Vocals go from shoegaze melodic to hardcore screams (in fact rarely has a vocalist in this genre screamed so musically as Yuko does) and underneath all this, Chia batters the skins, all rolling and tumbling thunder amidst the riffs.

Yes there is a smattering of ‘Sabbathy Wizarding’ of course, but submerged within dark, deep fuzz and punk rock crank and grind.

In truth the vibe is closer to both the arty heaviness of early Boris, and the sweet savagery of My Bloody Valentine, than any kind of ‘doom’ tropes. And in many ways, Blacklab are continuing the long tradition of Japanese experimental noise that bands like Melt Banana and Bordeoms exemplify. Ultimately though, it’s a sound that is undoubtedly BlackLab’s own.

So over 8 tracks, clocking in at around 42 mins, you get the current Blacklab world view.

‘Abyss’ is an album that is as raw and alive as it gets.

It’s refreshingly free of artifice, and it doesn’t arse around. What more can you want.

Say hello to the Osaka underground and watch the video for new single ‘Insanity’ now.

Christopher Nosnibor

For some inexplicable reason, I woke up feeling nostalgic today. Perhaps it was unloading a pile of NME and Melody Maker from 1992-1995 recently collected from my father’s house from the boot of the car that triggered it, but then I got to thinking about all kinds of random things from my youth, from Noodle Doodle pasta to the smell of classrooms.

Videostore’s third independent DIY release, ‘Every Town’ is two and a half minutes of swirling, spaced-out shoegazey-indie. Think Slowdive covering The Jesus and Mary Chain. Or vice versa. It doesn’t really matter either way: it’s a laid-back, low-tempo effort that harks back to an early 90s vintage, while at the same time casting a nod back a long way further, to the 60s when pop single was just two and a half minutes long, with no filler.

This in itself is nothing new: The Smiths were very much geared toward that perfect pop template, and The Wedding Present’s ‘Hit Parade’ project in 1992 was very much centred around creating succinct slices of pop.

Videostore – a side project of husband and wife duo Nathan and Lorna of London indie-pop act Argonaut – absorb all of this and add their own twist to the template to create something special here, and the result is nostalgia-drenched and retro without being twee.

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Videostrore

31st May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Where We Sleep – the supergroup consisting of Debbie Smith of Echobelly and Blindness, Curve and SPC ECO, Beth Rettig of Blindness, and also Axel Ray of United Ghosts – extend their super status on this outing, with Ben Pritchard, formerly of The Fall and currently Manc Floyd contributing guitar work on ‘Control’.

Despite the more indie-leaning backgrounds of the collaborators, Experiments in the Dark espouse more of a post-punk sound, amalgamated with the blurry shoegaze of Curve. There’s reverb galore as the layers of guitar wash over and bleed into one another: ‘What I Deserve’ has one of those classic slow-building intros that’s built around a strolling bass and dual guitars – one chiming fractal, gothy, the other overdriven and set to stun. And from the emerging murk, Rettig’s voice combines sultry and dangerous to strong – yet simultaneously understated – effect.

‘The Desert’ sits between Curve and debut-album era Garbage – and it’s magnificent: rich in atmosphere, dark, brooding, and again centring around a strong rhythmic framework. ‘Control’ is a standout: after gentle start, it bursts into a mesh of guitars colliding over a woozy bass and metronomic mechanised drum sound. And as the track progresses, the icy vocals and treble snap of the snare become increasingly submerged by the squalling noise. ‘Into the Light’ repeats the form, only with the added bonus of a propulsive chorus and a bassline on a par with The Mission’s ‘Wasteland’ overlayed with howls of feedback.

The title track which draws the curtain on proceedings is sparse, stark, and minimal, and owes more to the ghostly, smoky trip-hop of Portishead than anything remotely post-punk or shoegaze.

If Experiments In The Dark is 75% 80s and 25% early 90s, it’s also 100% representative of the zeitgeist in terms of the aspects of the past it draws on. And Where We Sleep’s strength lies in their ability to absorb those elements and draw them together to forge a sound that’s both familiar and fresh, avoiding sounding derivative and instead delivering an exciting set of songs that demand repeat plays.

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Where We Sleep – Experiments In The Dark