Posts Tagged ‘Shoegaze’

Latenight Weeknight Records – 6th July 2018

Stuart Bateman

“I have been developing this story for 3 years now. A science fiction romance gone wrong, where two astronauts finding a spark for each other get thrown into an unexpected event that puts the two into a fight for survival. With a hallucinatory and confusing vibe, the visuals follow along with the theme of the lyrics, where when you wait for something to happen, that time sometimes backfires and creates a situation that is far from ideal”, says Ryan Policky., front man with Colorado-based shoegaze proponents A Shoreline Dream.

While the accompanying video conveys the concept directly, how this translates in musical form is another matter, although it’s fair to say the chiming, reverby, effects-drenched guitars convey the concept, at least in an abstract form.

The title track builds through shimmering latticeworks of echo and reverb into a scorching crescendo of overdriven, melting guitar noise that calls to mind ‘Nowhere’ era Ride and MBV. There are some echoes of The Cure, too, lurking in a song that twists and turns and bucks and burns, slow but effervescent. ‘In the Ready Sound’ surprises with a sudden explosion of throbbing bass near the end, and while the remainder lacks the soaring power and drive, what the songs do offer is quintessential 90s shoegaze delivered with real aplomb: ‘New York’ offers layered harmonies and big guitars over a baggy beat. It’s very much about the atmosphere; the guitars are diffused in a sonic gauze. It doesn’t grab your attention, but drifts by like high-stratosphere clouds in a summer sky.

‘Projections’ finishes the EP in sturdy style, a walloping big drum beat driving a gothy, post-punk take on the shoegaze template and building a dark tension that contrasts with the breezy hues that dominate the EP overall. The contrasts and mood changes make the EP, indicating the work of a band with range and depth.

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Bearsuit Records – 14th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The Bearsuit philosophy is, to the best of my understanding, essentially built round a l’aissez-faire approach to experimentalism and collaboration. Stuff happens, when it happens, as it happens. Sometimes it happens without input or collaboration. And it’s all fine as long as it’s not mainstream. Truth is, nothing any of the Bearsuit acts could produce in a million lifetimes would ever even hint at mainstream aspirations. The reason I’ve been a personal advocate of the label and its output for a while now is simply because they do what they so, and don’t give a crap about trends, commercialism, or anything else. As I wrote the other day, albeit in a slightly different context: it’s for the love, not the money.

The label’s latest release sees Haq (the alter-ego of another Bearsuit would-be legend, Harold Nono) return. Five years on from the ‘Nocturnals’ album, this EP offers three remixes frm the album, plus two new cuts.

Lead track ‘Antics in a Maze’ moves far beyond the avant-trip-hop leanings of its predecessor and froths with fanciful flights of incongruity, and brims with an air of otherness. Breathy vocals waft over drifting, trilling swathes of gauze-like synth, crossed with bursts of odd electronica, deep dub and driving drum ‘n’ bass. Warped snippets of thee tunes for fictional TV shows and films from the 70s and 80s emerge fleetingly for the ever-shifting compositional aneurysm.

‘Norvell’ is the second new cut: with sonorous, brooding synths and rich, layered strings that sweep and tug at the tear ducts, as well as percussion that simultaneously clatters and thunders, it’s a dissonant and haunting work that straddles industrial, goth and shoegaze, with hints of Cranes and a messed-up air of dark beauty about its detached, haunting evocativeness.

The remixes are varied, in terms of style, interest and significance – but at least they are varied. Senji Niban’s remix of ‘Are You the Elephant’ thumps along insistently, a far cry from the slightly eerie, chilled original, while The Autumna remix of ‘Bees in My Feet’ is but a humming drone that’s elevated above ambience by virtue of maintaining a pitch that’s impossible to ignore, however hard you may try.

There’s nothing ordinary about the music on this EP, and while it’s bewildering at times – as you’d reasonably expect from Bearsuit – it also contains moments of extreme elegance and grace which are spellbinding.

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The Helen Scarsdale Agency – HMS048 – 17th August 2018

The pitch for Maps’ as ‘minor-key’ where ‘tear-stained notes of piano, organ, and guitar veer along elliptical orbits as a soft-whisper lilt of Ekin’s voice narrates more by emotive decree than by literary couplet’ is but a flavour.

The album is largely inspired by her first winter on an island in the Sea of Marmara, away from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, Maps is a completive work that reflects on experiencing silence and isolation. It’s relatable, and as is so often the case, in the personal lies the universal.

Isolation is not necessarily geographic, and distance doesn’t need to be great (the Sea of Marmara lies within the greater metropolitan umbrella of Istanbul) to have an effect on the psyche. Distance also needn’t be geographic: there’s no distance more isolating than emotional distance. It’s immeasurable, impossible to quantify, but manifests as a relentless ache, a sense of emptiness that sits in the gut and echoes around the chamber of the chest cavity. Mere inches in physical terms count for nothing when there’s that separation, and it grows to a pulling desperation, a gap that can’t be bridged. So close, and yet so far… just out of reach. There’s no-one to turn to, nowhere to go. Because you’re alone. And there are no words. Maps charts a journey through inner space, its hesitant notes representing the hesitant steps into unknown territory, alone.

On Maps, there are no words: this is the language of sound which communicates the message in its entirety. The warm-tones and sparse arrangements define the atmosphere of Maps. Fuzzy-edged guitar notes hanging in rarefied air for an eternity allude to Fil’s delicate, understated approach. Her music is sparse yet warm, delicate yet rich.

It’s a remarkably quiet, soft, understated work. It isn’t that nothing happens, but that evens unfurl discreetly, subtly, solely, with a certain delicacy. Organ wheezes as feedback whines on ‘Away’, while on the majority of the compositions, it’s a soft, echo-soaked piano that provides the main focus for this hushed, sparse song sequence which drifts together to create a very natural flow.

Maps doesn’t offer a direct route from A to B. But it does remind that the map is not the territory, and that the geographical terrain is not the mental space.

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Humpty Dumpty Records – 11th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s quite the introduction: ‘Jérôme Deuson is an unstable musician’ is the opening sentence of the press release that accompanies his seventh album as aMute. But how many musicians are stable? And what even is stability? Is anyone entirely stable? Is it even a desirable state? So often, creativity emerges from a state of inner turmoil, or tempestuous emotional flux. There are, of course, infinite shades: this is just to peel back some of the layers of the initial and likely awkward response to the statement.

Some Rest is not the millpond calm the title may imply: it’s only some rest, not total rest, and in truth, the rest here is minimal, on an album that’s clearly the work of a restless soul.

The album’s structure and sequence is unusual, opening with the longest composition by far: the title track is almost eighteen minutes long, and transitions from a delicate swirl of strings through a vast, shoegazey post-rock vista to an expansive, driving rock workout. While there are strains of feedback amidst the humming melodic drifts and samples which echo, almost buried in the mix, and the whole thing builds to a sustained crescendo, it’s still a more sedate experience than its predecessor, the tempestuous 2016 album Bending Time in Waves.

Side two begins with the gloopy, bubbling ambience of ‘I’ve Seen it All’ before sliding into eerie dissonance on ‘Dead Cold’, which exploits ringing chimes which give way to softer, picked guitar and a more tranquil, melodic space, disturbed only be the vocal, processed and burred with distortion. It’s sort of melancholic, sort of trippy, sort of dislocated, sort of abstract, sort of shoegazey in a trilling organ swamped in echo sort of way. It’s all amplified into a fizzing digital funnel on ‘The Obsedian’, which features Christian Bailleau, emerging as a grand, slow-moving and mournful piece reminiscent in some respects of Dylan Carlson’s more recent work, exploring as it does the pitch, tone, and timbre of the guitar in near-granular detail. Closer ‘Maria’, with hints of early Pink Floyd, is similarly drifty, dreamy, trippy, echoey-warped, and it tapers away into vaporous clouds.

Because of its ever-shifting nature, and its sonic range, Some Rest provides only the briefest of respites for the listener to relax, creating as it does an atmosphere of flux and continual movement.

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Alrealon Music – ALRN083 – 20th April 2018

James Wells

The title of Anita Loos’ 1925 novel and the 1953 film starring Marilyn Monroe may have passed into general acceptance, but if gentlemen prefer blondes, I personally prefer brunettes myself. Make of that what you will, but as such, a house of blondes has limited appeal ordinarily, although on hearing this, I’m inclined to make an exception. Time Trip is a varied and expansive electronic-led work which forges expansive spaces with nebulous synths and insistent beats.

‘Discovery #1’ builds ambient eddies of sound around a droning organ synth atop a motoric groove, and there are infinite nods to the likes of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream here, as undulation, oscillating synth repetitions bibble and tweet over long, undulating synth drones and insistent, repetitive beats.

There’s some droning, modular crackle and fizz to the yawning oscillations of ‘Mean Solar Time’, and the overall sensation of Time Trip is one of reaching back. It plucks flickers from shoegaze and ambience as well as the origins of electronica, positioning itself within a slow-arcing trajectory without defining its place in concrete terms.

This is music that billows, ripples, throbs and pulses, and is content to loiter on the peripheries of the focus-zone. The beats flicker and click, pitter and patter, while the synths glister and gleam, twisting in flange-soaked zero-gravity. It all feels very familiar, but at the same time, it’s rather nice.

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House of Blondes – Time Trip

1st June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It all starts with an air-raid siren. A historical sound with connotations of WW2 for many, but still heard in places like South Korea and Japan, it’s a sound which provokes an almost biologically-wired shudder of unease. They may only be tests, but the sound of sirens in the last 12 months reminds us that stability is but precarious. And then the snaking, surfy bass strolls in, awash with reverb… and then the guitars… It’s all pinned to a locked-down groove, and Trond Fagernes’ voice rises up from amidst it all as if from the back of a cathedral. You saw it all coming, right? They obviously did and approach by stealth, before building to a whiling cacophony by way of a climax. But for all of its noise and tension, this feels more introspective than anything they’ve done before.

Norway’s Mayflower Madame draw heavily on post-punk influences – music born out of the dark days of the early 80s, corresponding with the period when cold war tensions escalated to warrant the labelling of ‘the second cold war’, and the economic boom years widened the chasm between the haves and have-nots was rendered more conspicuous by the rise of the yuppie. And so on.

What Mayflower Madame bring to the gothy party is a potent dose of Nordic noir psych and a dash of shoegaze, all doused in massive reverb, and the four tracks on Premonition continue the trajectory of their 2016 debut album, Observed in a Dream.

The claustrophobic focus continues on the swirling, shoegazy ‘Before I Fall’; the guitars twang through a gauze of drifting synths and echoey fx that create a certain distance between the listener and the actual song, an unusual sense of both space and an absence of space. ‘Alma’s Sermon’ is centred around a backed-off yet insistent motoric beat and has greater immediacy and – it’s all relative – upbeat vibe. But then closer ‘Siders Seek’ plunges deeper into darkness: a paranoid shiver runs down the spine of the track’s tremulous guitars, and everything about the song’s construction seems to be about concentrating the tension. And yes, this is tense.

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Mayflower Madame – Premonition EP

Neurot Recordings – 11th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The band’s biography locates them as ‘standing at a crossroads of light and dark’, and we learn that Chrch create ‘epic, lengthy songs, with a massive low end, and a supernatural vocal presence, in a perfect blend of height and depth’.

Epic is the word: this, their second album contains just three songs, the shortest of which is just shy of ten minutes in length.

It begins with the twenty-two minute behemoth that is the appropriately-titled ‘Infinite’. Slow-picked notes, bathed in chorus and reverb hang in suspension. Dust motes drift in the spaces between them, and time stalls in a freeze-frame. Gradually, the percussion begins for form rhythm in the background, and some semblance of form begins to emerge. It’s around the five-minute mar when the dual vocal – a banshee howl and chthonic growl – tear through a landslide of trudging guitars so slow and low as to be positively subterranean. The mid-section is delicate as a butterfly’s wing, before the second heavyweight segment proffers forth some kind of doom rendition of classic rock, like Clapton on Ketamine, multiple lead guitar lines intertwining at a fraction of the conventional tempo.

‘Portals’ focuses more on the infinite power chords, screeding feedback, bowel-shaking bass and screaming demon vocals. It’s the soundtrack to a descent into the infernal abyss. The trudging riff that dominates the second half is enlivened by a majestic lead part and Eva Rose’s captivating vocals which soar and glide magnificently. I shan’t deny it: I’m a sucker for a shoegaze voice pitched against slabs of guitar as heavy, grey, and grainy as basalt.

The final cut ‘Aether’ is by far the lightest and most uplifting in its tone, and pushes further into shoegaze territory, despite its agonizing 40bpm pace and the anguished screams in the background. It feels like a crawl toward the light at the end of the tunnel, and despite the thunderous weight and the howling agony which permeates every note, it feels somehow redemptive.

The heavy passages – and they’re seriously heavy – are broken by protracted periods of tranquillity, of mesmeric beauty and delicate grace. But, truth be told, the format’s growing tired, the tropes of the dynamics embedded to the point of predictability now. And so it all comes down to execution and the details. On Light Will Consume Us All, Chrch venture – subtly – into different territories, territories which exist beyond the template of what’s now the doom standard. And it’s well executed. Really well executed.

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