Although writing for and fronting punk duo Ghoul Kids gave Taylor Barnes a great place from which to speak on any number of topics and narratives, it wasn’t until he suffered the unexpected departure of a close friend that he decided that a different musical platform would better serve his creative needs. That new sound, a blend of drifting shoegazery, vintage surf and rock urges, gothic vocalisations and a dark, psychedelic pop, was in some ways the antithesis of the path he had up until then been pursuing but it also still pulsed with an alternative, underground and cultish resonance.
Even before they had made a single noise, Spiritualized‘s moves were being closely watched by discerning music fans and press alike by virtue of front man Jason Pierce and his previous musical vehicle Spacemen 3. And whilst their droning, pedal heavy, shoegazing and tremolo driven sound would warp and shift to absorb many genres, particularly, gospel and blues, and reference the Phil Spectre “wall of sound” approach, Fucked Up Inside is where it all began.
To give people something a bit more familiar in-between the unknown, new and breaking music we write about here, I thought I’d do a daily post of some of the music that continues to inspire us and the musicians we write about here. Monday has been designated the realm of Shoegaze and so there is only one place to start. Once described as the sound of “A mermaid falling into a black hole”… a line I really wish I had written.
Sometimes less is more, there’s a whole cliche built around that notion. But sometimes more is more…I guess the clue was right there in front of us all the time. More means more and more has to be better than less. No? If you don’t believe me then just listen to Finnish shoegazing kraut-punk leviathan Teksti -TV 666
Wielding at least four guitars at any given time, the layering and the texturing on this five track offering makes for a masterwork in how you blend, bend, twist and tweak all of those strings together without losing the plot and muddying the musical waters. And even with so much to fit in the songs brim with dynamic and groove and have enough daylight seen between each instrument that every track, every bar, every riff, every note feels justified.
Imagine My Bloody Valentine putting their own spin on Ramones tracks or Lush getting to grips with heavy metal or Neu! on speed. Actually better still just by this album and make your own fun by thinking up your own theoretical music juxtapositions. Ride jamming with Metallica? The fun playing that game never ends, which has to be a sign that this is something truly original.
In a world of entrenchment and demarcation, of accepted norms and conformity, A Shoreline Dream is a transient and translucent haze that can’t be tied down. When everyone else is playing by the rules of commerciality or bowing to the fads of fashion they would rather move, smoke-like, on a breeze of their own making. They eschew genres, preferring to drift tantalisingly above them all or even create their own unique sonic space to inhabit.
If music were a painting and the usual pop and rock players were working in vibrant, well-defined oils, then this is music as watercolour, music which sketches the basic lines and then proceeds to blur the colours into the most translucent and sparsest of musical hues. It is musical layers washed out and then built up from many gossamer thin soundscapes, it is space used as an instrument, it is about texture and tone rather than drawing the eye in more obvious ways. It is the space and the suggestion as much as the chords and the beats that revel the musical ideas to the listener the listener and which allow the listener to see, or in this case hear, the whole picture.
Songs such as Waitout and Barnum play with their well established neo-shoegazing and dream state indie sounds whilst songs such as In The Ready Sound move towards a tighter, left field alt-pop vibe, though not one your average pop picker would recognise Im guessing. But that’s good, for even when they sail their swirling ship closer to conformity, they are still in some very original waters. The same waters that the likes of early Ride and Spiritualised charted a generation ago and which the likes of North Sea Oscillation and Engineer have continued to explore right up to the present day.
You know that you will never be disappointed with anything A Shoreline Dream produce, this is a safe pair of musical hands and a band who manage to raise benchmarks, personal and otherwise, with everything that they release.
At that point where the haze of shoegaze meets the pristine lines of pop, where cool of the underground overlaps with the more discerning end of the commercial music machine, where the dream-like meets the danceable, you find Soft Science. They join dots between that pre-Brit pop territory of the likes of early Lush or The Darling Buds and modern alternative pop fringes encapsulating the same pure pop heart wrapped in shimmering sonics that has always reminded us that pop can be big and it can be clever.
Undone, the first single from the band’s forthcoming third album, Maps, mixes strident guitars with shimmering synth washes and Katie Haley’s soft and floating vocals into a wonderfully swirling thing of MBV-esque beauty.
They really nail their sonic colours to the musical mast with the accompanying song on this double A side as they take on The House of Love’s classic I Don’t Know Why I Love You. Originally recorded for the House of Love tribute compilation album ‘Soft as Fire in The House of Love’ it sees them staying fairly faithful to the original whilst adding their own mercurial blend of sometimes soft, sometimes spiky touches. After all there isn’t too much you need to change about a song this great.
If their references harken back to the golden age of independent record labels, that balance of commerciality and dream-like otherness never really went to far away. With the music industry at large becoming a closed shop for anything which doesn’t fit their pre-ordained template, maybe, hopefully Soft Science are destined to be part of the rising movement coming from the grassroots and locked out fringes that forms a viable alternative path.
The eleven tracks on The Amazing’s new album – ‘In Transit,’ out April 6th via Partisan Records – manage to stay just out of focus. Together, they refine the Swedish five piece’s signature dreamlike soundscape, and cement the band’s status as one of the decade’s most consistently compelling acts. Listen to driving album centerpiece “Rewind” now, accompanied by a beautifully pastoral music video, directed by filmmaker Jordan Martin in collaboration with artist Richard Fox.
Self-produced, and recorded at Buller & Bäng Studio in Stockholm, ‘In Transit’ picks up right where 2016’s acclaimed ‘Ambulance’ left off. The songs expands on frontman/guitarist Christoffer Gunrup’s gloomy, textured vision – gorgeous tones, fed through layers of distortion in the style of The Cure, My Bloody Valentine, The Flaming Lips. Gunrup’s fellow bandmembers, Reine Fiske (also of Dungen, guitar), Moussa Fadera (drums), Alexis Benson (bass), and Frederik Swahn (keyboards and guitars) follow suit, melding together in a vivid combination of melody and mood.
Dean Garcia’s post and parallel Curve career is a CV which demonstrably shows that he has never been someone to rest on his laurels and coast on past achievements. Bands such as The Secret Meeting and more recently SPC ECO prove that he hasn’t lost his sense of musical intrigue, always moving forward as he wanders new and less well trodden sonic landscapes. Volker, the second album from his intriguing collaboration with Polish musical protagonist and multi-instrumentalist/producer/composer Jarek Leskiewicz, sees the pair of them heading into hazy, post-rock minimalism and the quieter echos of shoegazery to wonderful effect.
It is an album which drifts as much as it pulses, skitters as much as it beats, is shrouded in gloom and glitch, in pause and effect and there is a restrained and smoke-like beauty to the music it contains. But this minimalism is in constant flux and flow with more robust and well-rounded sounds and it is this dynamic which creates the charm of the album as it drops down into near silence, reaches for noisy crescendos and explores every combination in between.
Night Crawlers is as tense and scratchy as its name suggests, Is This It wanders between clinical beats and a wall of cavernous industrial noise forged into a melody which seems just outside the range of human senses and Starry Eyes draws a line between the then and now of alternative synth music. And all the time the vocals seem to lurk below the music playing an instrumental rather than a communicative role.
Blurred City Lights is helping to add a wonderful new genre to the modern musical canon, one that sits between post-punk dream scapes and modern ambient pop, between post-rock excess and cinematic delicacy. It revels in space and a whole new and evolving sound palette which doesn’t seek to conform and in not doing so is being picked up by a whole new alternative pop and indie audience.
There are many people in the English speaking world who are put off by songs, like lead single Desfile, which are not sung in their native language. I have two issues with this. One, how arrogant! Two, you are totally missing the point. Yes, lyrics and therefore language is a method of communication, but vocals are not the written word and are in themselves part of the sonic makeup of the music, an instrument in their own right. Add to that the fact that Maff set their vocals in the musical middle distance, above the beat but often swathed in swirls of guitars and other musical trappings, it becomes clear that direct communication isn’t the main thing that they are trying to achieve with their vocal deliveries. Maybe we should appreciate the sound and not worry to much about the sentiment.
Melanina combines the raw and blasted jagged edged beauty of The Jesus and Mary Chain, the more grunge infused drive of Dinosaur Jr. and the modern mindset of The Editors. It wanders between fragile soundscaping and walls of garage rock weight. It gazes both skyward and, ironically, at its own shoes, is musically intense and intimate yet expansive and all-consuming.
Whilst Hawaii drives on pulsing bass lines and staccato beats, and Appear wanders down some fractured but melodic highways, sitting alongside Desfile at the more conventional end of the record, opener, Act 2, is a strange and beguiling piece, twisting and turning through progressive structures and wonderfully wandering dynamic shifts.
Effects heavy bands often use their technological building blocks to bludgeon the listener, to try and convey the grandeur of the new musical age or possibly soundtrack its destruction. Maff sit somewhere between; sculptors of hypnotic dreamscapes and sonorous bliss in a musically apolitical age. Ecstasy but without the clubbing!
Post-Punk is more a place on a musical timeline than any meaningful conceptual handle, too broad to be insightful, too vague to carry any deep meaning. But if we take it to encapsulate a place that fits between the end of first wave 70’s punk and the rise of Brit-Pop/Grunge, depending on which side of the ocean you happened to reside, then Nostalgist are very much a post-punk band. Or they would be if they weren’t releasing Disaffection a quarter of a century after the original scene. But then I guess that the clue is in the name.
And yet somehow they have managed to produce an album which seems to draw together so many musical strands that the original scene was centred on, Disaffection seems less like a rose-tinted revisit and more like the result of a sonic possession. And whereas first time around those various strands were separated by the tribal allegiances of the time, today they seem natural bed fellows, weaving around each other in a way that they never did before. It means that you get blasted gothic tones delivered as shoegazery, dark brooding pop laced with ethereal dreamscaping, punk as art and rock music envisaged as slow moving industrial grooves. The difference is that the original scene was more a bunch of disparate musical tribes held together by shared artistic sensibilities and outsider status, Nostalgist, with the luxury of hindsight and the overview allowed by the passage of time, finally turn it into a cohesive sound. A sound which, intentionally or otherwise, sums up the alternative 80’s scene like no band of the time ever quite managed to.
Smoldering Amber comes on like Killing Joke delivering one of their less frantic art attacks, all anticipation and resonance, sonic weight and deliberation, Present Tense reminds us of Fields of The Nephilim’s ability to build fantasy worlds that mixed blasted guitars with shimmering riffs and the wonderfully named Threshed At Dusk, Winnowed at Dawn wanders through some brooding and ultra heavy new pop. Nailing their colours firmly to the past, they sign off with a cover of Catherine Wheel’s Texture, and such is Nostalgists ability to evoke the era, they do a remarkable job of reminding us of the song, and indeed the band, in all its glory.
Disaffection is both an updating of the past for those who weren’t there and also a reminder for those that were. But in an age where ill conceived tribute acts and poorly executed covers versions rely on the nostalgia receptors of the listeners brain to fill in the gaps, here we have a band which are neither a cover or a tribute but a genuine evocation of past glories whilst peddling their own unique and amalgamated sound.
Even if the current zeitgeist wasn’t already highly receptive to the dreamscapes and shoegazing explorations of past heroes and current torch bearers, this debut single by Jason Wagers solo project Nova Flares would still have caught the ear of the discerning and those appreciating tasteful and original music. At least one would hope so. This instrumental blending of retro sounds into what the artist himself has dubbed “surfgaze” is a glorious affair, never wandering too far into shoegaze that the melody gets lost in the musical morass or meandering the other way so that a pop frivolity ruins the gentle majesty of the song.
It picks at jangling sixties guitar threads but this is Byrdsian sonic territory as seen through a late 80’s lens and the psychedelic undercurrents remain just that rather than take the listener down into acid-laced and claustrophobic waters. Gut Splinter is light to the touch but deftly constructed, layered and textured rather than spacious and sparse, it re-imagines the past rather than revisits it, and does so by cherry picking all the cool vibes from across the decades and fashioning them into both a past that never was and therefore a future which just might be.
In our post-genre, non-tribal, musical fluid world, Nova Flares is the equivilant of a skinny-jeaned indie kid wearing a Beach Boys t-shirt, clutching a Dream Syndicate album, whistleing a My Bloody Valentine tune (if that is even practical) as they make their way to a Warlocks gig. Maybe this is the point of conception for a whole new The Paisley Overground! Wouldn’t that be something?
Canadian – Ukrainian duo Ummagma have just launched a crowdfunding campaign for their next original album on vinyl and CD on Indiegogo. Their’s is an eclectic yet harmonious potpourri of sublime resonance, beats and rhythm, with McLarnon’s delicate airy gossamer-like vocals often compared to Liz Fraser (Cocteau Twins) with glimmers of Stereolab, The Sundays, Lush, Curve, Nathalie Merchant and Slowdive. Kretov’s spellbinding potion of guitar, vocals, synths, beats, programming & effects create impeccable soundscapes with elements of Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Bill Nelson and Brian Eno to help the listener take flight.
Their music is always evolving, never staying too long in one place, an eternal quest for new musical landscapes, new sonic pastures, new sound textures and new creative horizons and their current position on the musical map can be found on their third, forthcoming album Compass.
“We’ve poured our souls and channeled our hopes and worldview into this release over five years. But it will take you only a few minutes to support this wonderful project! Please share our vision and journey. Pre-order our new album and access merch, experiences, updates and more.”
Please share this link via all your social media tools https://igg.me/at/ummagma so that they can can reach page 1 on #Indiegogo (your tweets, pledges and comments all boost Ummagma in their #GogoFactor algorhythm.)
Thank you for your time.
I continue to be amazed by The Veldt’s ability to similtaniously shimmer yet saunter, chime but groove. How do you even do that? On the one hand they play with sounds which seem built of almost intangible, ethereal qualities, the stuff of stardust and dreams but the clever part is that they then bolt those fey and ephemeral vibes on to soulful and sultry rhythms, pulsating beats, raw post-rock guitarwork and infectious boogies to fashion the perfect blend of texture and solidity.
Whilst there are undeniable parallels with a whole raft of challenging post-punkers, timeless progressive trailblazers and modern day sonic explorers, what keeps the band tied to the real world, rooted in something more structured, is the soulful, R&B undertones and the ability to mix unreconstructed and unabashed grooves with these more gossamer and floating sounds. I can’t think of any other band who walks a more perfect line between such seemingly unconnected worlds.
And proof of just how original a path they do walk is demonstrated by the calibre of the people they attract to work with. People like A.R. Kane’s Rudy Tambala, New Kingdom’s Jason Furlow, the godfather of soundscaping Robin Guthrie and Carlos Bess of The Wutang production team all adding their not inconsiderable skills to the mix and production of the record.
Yes, you can tell a lot about a band by the company it keeps and such associations speak volumes, but it is their mercurial and singularly unique sound, one which evokes old soul records as easily as it does dense walls of shoegazery, which draws such icons to their flame, and rightly so.
Albums should grab you from the off, entice you, draw you in and wrap you up in their own musical plane of existence. The Dayoffs are aware of this, even if they are not aware that they are aware of this, because from the opening salvo of hazy loveliness that goes by the name of 15, I was smitten. Its blend of rapturous, shimmering yet structured shoegazery took me back to a host of great bands from my own formative post-punk days, when Bunnymen echoed, Icicles worked, The Church were surprisingly anti-establishment and (early) Lush were just that. After such a glorious opening salvo you can do nothing less than settle down and wait for the rest of the songs to wash over you, which they do like a sonic tsunami.
Although the term shoegaze implies a certain looseness, ethereality and experimental progression that would normally take the music away from conventional structures, this Russo-Japanese NYC duo seem able to capture all those elements without straying away from recognisable song forms or addictive hooks, of which there are many and used to great effect. By the time we get to Bottled Rainwater a slightly darker, crunchier JAMC element emerges as warped and overdriven guitars spar lay down a dark hypnotic groove. The results are nothing short of majestic.
It’s a neat trick to sound underground and cultish one moment, and accessible and commercially viable the next, to do it across an album which is cohesive and focused is this nothing short of remarkable. But that is what The Dayoffs manage to do, and do so effortlessly. At one moment I Can’t Believe I’m Dead is a howling banshee of a song wandering into Iggy Pop realms of intense, punked out insanity, Love Love Love plays to an 80’s post-punk gallery and Two Actors In a Cage is perfect for the modern underground pop set. And yet despite the fact that these songs seem custom built for a variety of audiences, they make perfect sonic bedfellows.
The album is a wonderful tapestry of dream pop soundscaping, introverted shoegazing, the occasional grunge work out, darkly detached and emotive vocals, and razor wire riffs bound together by meshes of wild and warped guitar. The word here is texture, like an exotic hand made Persian rug, musical lines are warped and wefted to wonderful effect and despite the riot of colour, nothing is wasted, no one thread obscures another, the complex beauty is apparent for all to see.
As Phil continues his hazy pop odyssey with another small but perfectly formed batch of songs you realise something profoundly important about the man at the heart of the music. He understands what guitar pop music is about. I don’t just mean that he knows what makes a good tune, that was never in doubt, but he understands what lies at the heart of the old guitar pop dream – guitar pop trying to be guitar pop, not those grand and misguided pretentions of trying to be big, bad rock music.
Perfect pop is rare, pop that really makes you swoon and dream – from The Monkees to Teenage Fanclub, The Lightning Seeds to XTC and on the strength of the two releases which have crossed my path this year Phil Wilson can be added to that exalted clan. Across his three songs he builds sonorous dreamscapes, fills them with lush harmonies, chiming guitars and neo-psychedelic hazes, sails just close enough to trippy acid era Beatles and reminds me to play my Church albums more.
Short, sweet, accessible and beautiful. Were you really expecting anything less?
Music is cyclical, we all know that, 30 years seems to be the recognised time span for music to drop off the fashion radar long enough to seem cool or cult and be rediscovered and reinterpreted by a new musical generation. Brit-pop was a re-discovery of sixties guitar bands, punk was the distilled spirit of rock’n’roll for generation feeling similarly lost and even grunge had its roots in the garage rock and nascent metal scenes of a previous generation.
My own musical future-nostalgia moments, however, lie in an altogether more ambient place. Once the punks had shown us that making music was not just something for the dedicated, or indeed talented few, a whole movement of back bedroom aspirants began rewiring cheap keyboards and running battered guitars through homemade effects pedals and the result was glorious.
The sonic landscape that they described was one of drifting beauty and sharp angles, of raw guitars and delicate minimalism, of ethereal atmospheres and of industrial noise. It was supported by fledgling record labels such as 4AD and Sarah Records and was gathered into journalistic gangs and given names like dream-pop, shoe gaze, new-wave, underground-pop and new romanticism.
And if the likes of Kate Bush was proving that such new and defiant approaches could sell records via the more traditional model, bands such as The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and even The Birthday Party where the street corner punk hustlers pushing their own, more confrontational but no less beautiful sonic dreams.
And today, the circle has turned and those once lost, sweet sounds are finding their way into modern music once more as musicians discover that same acoustic beauty in the dusty corners of parents record collections and incorporate them into their own musical visions. Torchbearers such as Shameless Promotions gather and collect both new takes on the past as well as bands that have been carrying the flag for all these years. The Veldt’s reverb soaked soul, Ummagma’s chilled delicacy, the cavernous majesty of Tombstones In Their Eyes and Black Needle Noise building music for movies you haven’t dreamt of yet are the centre of that new exclusive universe.
Bands such as Fassine come at these sounds from another angle, one which links chilled ambient dance with futuristic pop, which is both massively commercial yet effortlessly cool, a chart headed Trojan horse to spread subtle influences through a musical charm offensive.
The one advantage of staying close to music for so long is that you get to see a new generation get excited, deconstruct and redefine the sounds that made you fall in love with music in the first place.
This new wave of bands both pull nostalgic heartstrings and point the way towards a bright new dawn and for that I can’t thank them enough.
With all those textured and ambient sonic dreamscapes that seemed to go hand in hand with the explosion of the small independent record labels back and riding high in the modern zeitgeist, Parsons Rocket Project are the perfect band for the moment. They both pull nostalgic heartstrings and point the way towards a bright new dawn and their self-titled debut e.p. is the perfect record for these post-genre times.
Out on New Texture label today, these Atlanta sonic dream-weavers and space cadets thread post-punk threads through drifting washes and walls of guitar effects to narrate a chilled space–opera story line. It chimes with 60’s psychedelia, 70’s prog, 80’s shoegaze and more contemporary ambient indie and nu-gaze that later referenced those stalwart scenes.
The e.p. is less a concept album, more an album of concepts, ones that fit together sonically and lyrically to take us on an adventure both physically and in a more metaphysical sense. Through analogy and actuality it takes us far out into space and then back into the very depths of our own heart. It builds tension and texture though synth washes and a clash of guitar gorgeousness and jarring dissonance, the beauty and the beast joined as one.
But not only is this a journey in the narrative sense, sonically they collect, harness and alchemise genres, shift moods and subvert expectations and constantly evolve, not only from one track to the next but within the songs themselves.
In short, this is the sound of shoegazers become stargazers.
The Veldt has always been a fascinating concept. Two black school kids in 80’s Raleigh, North Carolina dressing like European New Romantics and listening to the underground releases of London’s infamous 4AD label. A bold stance to take but one which led to the gathering together of like minded individuals and the result of course was The Veldt; a mercurial blend of the sonorous dreamscapes drifting in from across the Atlantic and more soulful and jazz infused homegrown grooves.
If the Old World evolution of dream-pop led to a less tangible, less structured form, The Veldt’s hazy, neo-psychedelic New World echoes were always grounded in a soft r’n’b groove, something which added warmth to what can often be a clinical and non-organic sound.
The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur EP sees them still exploring this gene splicing of the soulful and the sonorous, resulting in a sound somewhere between a lucid dream, half heard, half remembered and alien soul music picked up from the depths of outer space. Moody soul built from blissed out shoegaze…now there’s a concept, one which modern listeners would associate more with the likes of The Weeknd than its originators. At its most solid, And It’s You, weaves Marvin Gaye’s progressive reinvention through chiming guitars and slow electro dance grooves, at its most transient, Sanctified is distant, smoke-like and skittering.
And whilst the originality of their sound has gained them admirers in all the right quarters from Rudy Tambala (A R Kane) to Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins), they have also acted as a beacon for other like-minded souls looking to break out of the existing conventions. None other than Doc McKinney (The Weeknd, Drake, Estherio) said,
“For black artists, doing anything outside of the bubble, beyond what’s derivative of what white kids are doing, being able to express yourself honestly, is not celebrated at all. So when I heard these guys, it gave me confidence.”
Some bands make innovative and artistically important music, others break down cultural barriers, others still thread together ideas, which up until then weren’t even on nodding terms. It isn’t often that you find a band that stands for all of those things.
The past is a different country; they promote their musical releases differently there. And whilst there are lots of recognisable references shooting through A Shoreline Dream’s hazy, neo-shoegazing, the idea of releasing each track on their planned album as a single in its own right before a physical, vinyl only release, is very much a marketing technique in keeping with the modern promotional drum beat.
Room For The Others is the fourth instalment in a series that wanders down some interesting musical pathways linking early post-punk explorers with modern adaptors and the result is music which matches familiarity with forward thinking, hazy sonic drifting with confident structural dynamics and moody gothic shades with cinematic, post-rock soundscaping.
A Shoreline Dream is the master of time travel and generic cross-pollination. There is something detached and remarkably North European about their sound but it is also flooded with acid tinged psychedelic waves washing in from the darker underbelly of California’s lost hippy dream. Part of it seems as specifically located as the M4 corridors original shoegazing scene and part of it is as progressive, wandering and limitless as anything in the post-genre world.
And if Room For The Others is happy to take a loose and sonorous journey, one that is lush and wonderfully orchestrated, elsewhere in the package, such as on Whirlwind and Revolvist, they show a more intense and muscular side to themselves and touch on what perhaps the dark visions of Joy Division may have evolved into had they not burned out so spectacularly and quickly.
It’s an interesting journey that takes us towards the halfway point of the final album and one that matches a inward looking, dark intensity with the sound of celestial soaring, claustrophobic insularity with shimmering crescendos. A blues-less blueprint for cleansed rock reborn? Perhaps, but either way it gets my vote.
Some time ago, out on a dark, lonely highway, an illicit meeting between the then members of My Bloody Valentine and Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster met to discuss the matter of who would inherit the throne. They came up with the idea of uniting their two houses, Shoegaze and Neo-psychedelia and the chosen heir was the, now of age, Dead Vibrations. Okay, that’s almost certainly not true, maybe I have been watching too much Game of Thrones but it does tell you a lot about the musical balance of the band.
On the one hand they play with sullen, shoegazing washes and walls of deconstructed noise, on the other they have the ability to hit the full on rock button and reign down shards of dark and jagged guitars. They hide the songs structures and indeed much of the vocal delivery under swaths of pulsing bass, dramatic beats and meandering, white-hot riffs. The result is a wandering, hypnotic noise-opera, aptly called Swirl, which comes packaged with an even longer, more languid and sleazy piece called Sleeping in Silvergarden, which as we all know is a city in Dorne. See, I knew I was on to something!
It’s not often that a record comes along that makes you both excited for the future of music and pine for the sounds of the past but this effort from the newly gathered Oliveri and associates does just that, and with some style too.
There is a clear line of influence at work from the days of the C86 indie-pop movement through to the heady times of early 90’s indie and shoegaze and the days of guitar music threatening the charts. But, it is not just one aspect of these influences that the band utilise, and it is not simple homage that they are paying, instead they cast their net wide, gathering up as much indie-history as they can hold before rewriting it in a way they feel works better.
The result is all that shoegaze fuzz tempered by catchy choruses and accessible melodies, spikey guitars meeting sweeping synths all the while being propelled with subtle but driving rhythm work. It is note solely about the musicianship though, the songs are exquisitely written and poetic, Oliveri not compromising any of his lyrical chops with the change in musical gear, fans of his nu-folk past will still find much to love.
A clever blending of the old into something that sounds fresh, new and achingly cool and contemporary, this album is many things; hypnotic, dreamy and elegant yet intense, jagged and awkward. It somehow manages to tread that fine line between commerciality and cool, leaving you wondering why music like this is still underground and not troubling the mainstream
New Luna plays a very clever hand, whether they are aware of it or not, but they are surely aware that it is not an easy task to deliver music that is at once both new and interesting and still have mass appeal. For whilst their core sound sits along a cultural line that links the intricacies of indie music with the more aggressive and experimental urges that make up the alt-rock camp, even that is not enough to stand out these days, so what is a band to do? Well, in the case of New Luna what you do is look back to the trappings of the shoegaze era and explore those same dynamic interplays, examine the 90’s college rock loud-quiet templates and wander dream-pop landscapes and soak up those lessons in the use of light and shade.
Whether by osmosis or a more conscious effort, all of these elements are used to colour what can otherwise be an all to familiar guitar band style, I mean a 4-piece, white boy, guitar band coming out of Manchester’s cold and gritty redbrick streets is hardly a new story. But across these four songs they manage to breath new life into the format, offering delicate spatial awareness alongside overdriven guitar workouts, mixing jangling and hypnotic riff-a-rama with muscular guitar passages, soaring crescendos with emotive minimalism.
Re-invention is always the answer and even if New Luna can’t claim to have re-invented the wheel, they have certainly re-treaded it, painted it interesting colours and added some shimmering gloss. And it is this balancing act that will find that they appeal not only to the arty set who will revel in the creativeness but also the mainstream who are just happy to sit in the back seat whilst you take them for a spin around the block.
Coming on like a lost Zoo Records album from the heady days of Liverpool’s burgeoning post-punk melting pot, Heat, like most bands looking for a way to muscle through the madding musical crowd, walk a fine line between reflection and forward thinking. Looking back it captures everything that was great about a certain line of lush, hazy, shoegaze, but does so in a totally natural and uncalculated way, making for, if it isn’t indeed a mutually exclusive idea, a sound that is both wonderfully ragged and totally on the nail.
And what stops this being just a walk through past dreamscape glories is the fact that whilst the clay that they work with is familiar the wonderfully delicate sculpture that emerges from their musical kiln is still new and inspiring, modern and unique. The song writing brings something new to a table which is becoming a popular place to be again and from its slacker wooziness to its beat driven urges to the intricate details that emerge from the subtle washes of sound which swoosh about, this is very much an album that seeks to create it’s own mythology rather than re-appropriate someone else’s.
If the term slacker-shoegaze hasn’t already been claimed then grab the copyright now as you may just find that Heat will be at the centre of just such an emerging movement.
To say that this is a single built around cross pollination, across time, geography and style is still under selling how collaborative and encompassing of long distanced and disparate strands this is. Ummagma are a Canadian-Ukrainian dream-pop act of this generation; A.R. Kane were UK pioneers of the genre from back in the heady days of the emerging 4AD label, but it is definitely the common ground not the differences that is celebrated here.
In it’s original version Winter Tale is a heady swirl of dreamy-pop vibes, built very much on beat and melody, which ticks many of the same boxes as The Cadbury Sisters do, that perfect blend of pop accessibility and simple, bucolic beauty.
It is what happens when the aforementioned dream-pop soundscapers gets there hands on things that the song finds itself going down the rabbit hole. Those rigid structures and consistent beats are replaced with a warped template that connects dots between the experimentalism of the 4AD ethic and its re-emergence as post-rock. The music shimmers and collides, soars and trembles as if it scares itself, thankfully between the original and the extremes of this remix there is also a radio mix to act as a wonderful compromise.
It is the present being informed by the past, young acolytes putting themselves in the hands of past masters and whether you opt for the straight forward delivery or revel in A.R. Kane doing a spot of avant-gardening, it shows that oddly enough what is the most fragile and inconsistent of all musical genres is also one of the most long-lived and consistently mercurial, if that isn’t indeed too mutually exclusive an idea.
If, like me, your references for shoe gaze come largely from a white, art-school, M4 corridor hinterland then The Veldt are the perfect reminder that often the best musical ideas tend to appear simultaneously in small pockets of creativity across a myriad of musical landscapes and geographical locations. The common factor has more to do with artistic references and mind set that it does with the flimsy journalistic constructs of scenes and fashion.
And whilst fellow dreamscape travellers such as The Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine were creating their sonorous sounds, The Veldt, from their North Carolina base were using a whole different pallet of sound as they headed towards a similar musical destination. Marvin Gaye and Sun Ra where just as much a reference point as the more obvious and more recent reverb drenched post-punk scene and through the years they have created music that is as beautiful as it is unique.
In a Quiet Room comes from their latest EP The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur which in referencing none other than ee cummings again hints at the depths and wide ranging references that they employ when approaching their craft.
Actually, forget all of that, the fact that they release their music on a label named 5 BC (gedit?) tells you everything you need to know.
Music is always going to be the sum of its maker’s influences, whether those reference points are consciously included or otherwise. On their latest single, the traditional music of Eleni Zafiriadou’s Greek birthplace and the classical background of Daniel Benjamin are not hard to find, but it is the sweeping dreamscaping and the shoegazing structures that they encase them it that takes this into wonderful new territories.
Although built on a prominent Bouzouki riff, this is anything but a folk outing. Peace Begins at Home shimmers with rich pop sensibilities, sweeps with symphonic grandeur, glides through wonderfully textured waters and delivers lyrics with depth and poignancy. The air around it is tinged with melancholy and regret and it is easy to see why they refer to their music as Ghost Pop (a phrase I’m sure I will be stealing for future reviews.)
Although this is the new single from their recent sophomore album, Evropi, it found its way to me as the lead song on an ep of remixes and re-imaginings which also include an ambient drone deconstruction by Sebastian Reynolds and an acoustic cover by Duke Special. Good company indeed.
I often find that music dictates the way you write about it. Music full of boast and bombast evokes muscle bound descriptions, commercially loaded pop often results in over-egged efforts to sell its style rather than its substance and most conventional indie music leaves me appropriating descriptions I have used before, for better deserving bands. Where I am most comfortable, where the words flow most freely is when presented with dreamy, smokey and sonorous soundscapes and intangible washes of creativity. It is why releases by Wasuremono are so looked forward too.
And if the opening salvo, Dog, kicks off by laying down a sub-Cure backbeat (and check out Alligator for more Simon Gallup bass references…and by the way, I’m not complaining), any thoughts of pastiche are immediately dispelled with their unique vocal approach, a neat one-two between conventional deliveries and distant falsetto washes. And whilst songs such as Part of You do nothing to dispel the dreampop tag, Kaboom proves that they so much more than that. For whilst they tick all the right boxes of that genre – haunting, melancholic and otherworldly, effects driven and ghostly, there is something far too tangible and solid at their core for them to be pigeon-holed quite that easily.
The title track shows just how cleverly they can collect, harness and alchemise genres, shift moods and subvert expectations not only from one track to the next but within the songs themselves. In this respect the track Kaboom is a triumph of meandering intent and slow burning dynamic build, employing enough groove and skittering beats to catch the ear of the alt-pop mainstream and more than enough cool elegance and detachment to create a cult following.
With bands such as Warpaint proving that such heavenly sounds can appeal to both highbrow and commercial markets simultaneously, the release of this album sees Wasuremono in the perfect position to break into a bigger league, one that both buys records in decent numbers and also appreciates the fact that records this good don’t just come about by chance. Imagine that!
You’ve all heard of that term beloved of school music papers and angst-fuelled teen blogs, Marmite Music, bands to whose music there seems to be only a polarised love or hate response. Well, let me introduce you to Haribo Music, music that simultaneously delivers the sweetest flavours and a wonderfully bitter after taste. Big Jesus makes Haribo Music.
They achieve this through building complex substructures of angular, often jarring guitars, furiously driven beats and growling bass runs but then sugar coat it all with hazy MBV style gloss, whispering vocals and washes of effected guitar. It has the muscle of the nineties US college radio sound and the lush and sometimes fey dreamscapes of a bunch of Oxford drama students from around the same time and it is this clash of worlds, of brawn and brain, of street wise extroversion and bedsit introversion that creates the world Big Jesus inhabit.
You may be drawn in by the sugar rush of the music’s outward veneer but in your heart of hearts you perversely know it is the brash and slightly unpalatable machinations at the songs core that you get off on.
Bands that challenge me as a writer are always those I look forward too the most. Where is the fun in trying to find new ways of describing a band who are ripping off something you failed to get excited about 5 years ago when you can try to put into words music that really is striding into new, greener musical pastures? The Lucid Dream is just such a band.
And if it is a challenge to find ways of pinning down the myriad of shifting sounds that they weave together to create their individual albums, it is also fitting that haven woven such vivid colours on one album, the next will always see them working with intricate and often unexpected new patterns.
It says something about a band who even on CD divide their album into side A and side B and then present only 7 songs ranging from under 2 minutes to over 11. Certainly they work in a way that has no truck with fashion or mainstream conformity.
It is no co-incidence that this 3rd album has the media taste makers and musical scribblers of note falling over themselves to applaud their music. Their ability to create walls of sound, which somehow sound sonorous and hazy, jangling post punk lullabies that descend into post-rock soundscapes and even dub grooves, wrapped in shoegaze lullabies mark them out to be one of the most inventive bands working today.