ARTIST: The Virgance
RELEASE: Worship The Moon
RELEASE DATE: 31st October 2017
RECORD COMPANY: El Vals del Conejo
Stepping away from a tried and trusted sonic format in the name of experimentation is a tricky and sometimes perilous undertaking. Continued advancements in music recording technology feed the mind of the modern musician and the lure for change is a relentless beast regardless of the all encompassing perils and pitfalls that surround a massive change in any artists collective sound. Taking all of that into consideration, I've just reviewed the latest release entitled 'Worship The Moon' from UK based 'The Virgance' and it marks a significant shift in direction in terms of composition, arrangement and incredibly instrumentation thus turning this artists recognised sound on it's head and dumping it firmly in the 'Experimental' category of music for me. 'The Virgance' is the solo project of Nathan Smith, previously of seminal 90's band Ripley & 00's electro noise merchants 'Loveless'. 'Worship The Moon' is his forth album to be released on the brilliant independent net label 'El Vals del Conejo' and it follow's on from both of his 2015 release's, the immense 'Hiko Shrine' and 'Paradigm 3' and his 2014 debut 'Lost Continent'. The album was released on October 31st 2017 and is available to buy/download via thevirgance.bandcamp.com
Worship The Moon by The Virgance
In a cascade of synth and sequenced electronics the opening salvos of ‘Country Of The Past’ begin bombarding the senses with deep sonic vibrations. Dark malevolent bass frequencies merge effortlessly with soaring lines of keyboard, deftly riding wave after wave of entrancing melody and underscored at times with sparse percussion or the occasional drum fill. What is evident from the off is that this is a total step away from what we usually expect from ‘The Virgance’. Yes the wide scoped lunar themed soundscapes are there but usually by now they are awash with layers of hazy guitar and oodles of reverb. Instead these usually addictive sounds have been substituted with swathes of atmospheric synth and their well crafted although progressively electronic accompaniments. It’s almost as if Nathan has channelled the inner mind of Greek composer Vangelis or German based sonic genius Hans Zimmer. Not that I’m complaining at all, in fact, it’s a totally refreshing sound, one that I can personally relate to and a credit to his song writing and production skills. Up next, the deeply experimental but totally entrancing ‘Terrorforming’ floats into the ether on a wave of promulgating synth and warbling keyboard stabs. Ethereal voices glide and shimmer on beautiful pads of Jazz orientated percussion as the listener is immersed in a kaleidoscope of sonic vibrations and massive swathes of intense melancholic atmosphere. ‘Terrorforming’ is absorbingly immense and possibly my favourite track on the entire release.
‘Curious Case’ swirls into audible range caught in the wurlitzing swells of organ with glitchy but explosive drum patterns underfoot. Uplifting instrumental progressions follow a lysergic cycle of circus chic, adding a malevolent theme to proceedings as the collective instrumentation meanders and undulates along a rickety pre-ordained course. It’s impressive but a tad boring after a while and I’m wondering when Harrison Ford will appear with a speaking part. There’s an ambient hue wafting into the ether as the ten minute long ‘Dream Feed’ does exactly as it says on the tin. Twinkling keys and sampled bird calls add atmosphere as ‘The Virgance’ take an experimental sojourn away from their usual cinematic themed fair and drop headlong into an acid blotched world of psychedelic abandonment. It’s all too much for me I’m afraid as it gets a bit freaky half way through, morphing itself into mix match collection of breakbeats, eastern esoteric percussion and swirling reverberations.
The albums penultimate piece entitled ‘Lunar Power’ pulses into life harassed by a cyclonic instrumental drone and soaring swells of atmospheric synth. They collectively rise and fall through layers of reverb and delayed fluctuations, leaving sonic wakes in their path that plough deep dark furrows into the psyche before cascading into almost ethereal like instrumental flourishes. This is encroaching into sci-fi movie soundtrack territory now and it’s not long before the final piece of the puzzle falls into place with the arrival of the closing track aptly named ‘Out Of The Woods’. This track is deeply experimental, a bit too much some might say, and it swerves through passages of modern psych and ambient electronica on a whim with massive walls of reverb, hazy guitars and swooning synths all topped off with some impressive production. It’s a fitting end to what is at times a very confusing album and I don’t mean that in a bad way. ‘Worship the Moon’ has some fascinating moments throughout but is at times way too experimental for my tastes and it overburdens itself with it’s movie soundtrack leanings that can also get a tad monotonous after a while. There are redeeming features throughout with the songwriting, sonic sculpturing and production deserved of serious plaudits. I do however recommend that you listen to it via headphones at first for that all encompassing sonic thrill ride.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Del Chaney has spent the last five years dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the unsigned or small independent label based shoegaze, ethereal dream pop, post punk & modern psych rock from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. He is also a contributing writer for The Sound Of Confusion (Now On Hiatus). His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has helped him in actively promoting a genre of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.
by Primal Music
German based Leila Zanzibar aka 'Highest Sea' has unleashed a brand new video to accompany one of our favourite tracks from her fantastically dreamy four track EP 'Haunted Hearts', released back in February 2017 via the Berlin based independent record label Späti Palace. The track in question is called 'Hawaii' and it's a dreamy, jangling affair with subtle psychedelic connotations that swirl around Leila's addictive vocal tones brilliantly. Collectively 'Highest Sea' create a melting pot of different sounds all lifted from a variety of superb music genre's such as post-punk, the guitar driven stirrings of alternative rock and the churning hum of dream-pop; all mixed together to create a kind of low key form of shoegaze.
The original track was performed by Leila Zanzibar & Timothée Demoury with video production duties falling to Hayung von Oepen, Anja Klause and Leila Zanzibar. Tamar Weiss, Theo Taylor and Leila also appear in it's accompanying video.
'Haunted Hearts' EP is available to buy/download right now from spaetipalace.bandcamp.com
RELEASE: Molten Young Lovers
RELEASE DATE: 13th October 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Shelflife Records
The closest thing I can relate to Airiel's second album entitled 'Molten Young Lovers' is the 1980’s sound of shoegaze: which in its crawling faze was not just shoegaze but a neat mixture between dream pop, soul, synthpop and anything else you could fit in. 'Molten Young Lovers' is the kind of album that harkens to this older and more reminiscent sound while also adding flavours of current and modern day shoegaze scene. And just like the first rays of shoegaze that shone through in the 1980's, there is often a downtrodden and somewhat reflective quality to the album that makes it all the more rewarding to listen to and explore. 'Molten Young Lovers' was released back on the 13th October 2017 via the good folks over at 'Shelflife Records' with the album available to buy/download on various formats from both shelflife.com and airiel.bandcamp.com
Molten Young Lovers by Airiel
‘This Is Permanent’ opens with a drum machine heavy programmed beat that leads into a full scale shoegaze-led guitar progression. The soundscapes and layering of sound that flexes from the guitar adds a whole other level to the sound of the music, as well as the impressive (and loud) vocal performance. Much like the music of MBV, Airiel's brand of shoegaze are in fact linear pop tunes wrapped up with layers of wall to wall effects, and while Airiel are nowhere near as ear-shatteringly loud or echo-drenched as MBV, the same kind of under skin of musicality resides in both. ‘Cloudburst’ appears more as a dream pop track, ethereal and wavering in its backing: drenched with layers and layers of soaring synth and beautiful tones. The drums roll along to capture the essence of late 80’s, early 90’s breezy dream pop music; this transition continues onto ‘Your Lips, My Mouth’ which is a brilliantly original album highlight. This track adds more layering onto the already dense instrumental structure of ‘Cloudburst’ and a darker tone of colour to the music: mix this with the vocal and the shimmering guitar performance and you have a crafty mixture of nostalgic tones and a kind of contemplative feeling of desolation; fantastic.
‘Molten Young Lovers’ follows on with a more moody and ambient opening before sliding back into a dream pop-esque textured passage of guitars and rumbling, rolling drums. Between the rhythm section and a synth based soundscape at the back of the mix, ‘Molten Young Lovers’ offers a kind of post-punk element to the album, this stands at the background of what turns into a beautiful ballad. The lyrics, the delivery, are truly brilliant: these all blend together for added emotive depth and effect. ‘Mind Furnace’ slows things down and sounds similar to an interlude of sorts, unfortunately, the tracks blend of electronic based beats and ambience demonstrates a type of tedious and slight flavour.
‘Sharron Apple’ resumes the pace of the previous half of the album, extending the concept of layered guitar music to an almost noise rock level while also retaining the same kind of pop ballad aestethic of the previous songs also. ‘Song For You’ is an enjoyable song, albeit lengthy and slightly frustrating in its weight, but with several rewarding and attractive passages (especially the outro). Another rewarding but lengthy journey is the follower ‘Keep You’, which features some great keyboard and guitar playing, as well as a fantastic second half and outro. ‘Red Car’ returns to the aforementioned parameter of noise rock and more distorted guitar song, featuring a fantastic drum performance and musical cross over. ‘You Sweet Talker’ remains the strongest track on the albums weightier second half: its more ballad like approach, slow and slight crescendo and progression over its duration is a rewarding listening experience in relation to the other tracks on the album. ‘The Painkillers’ opens with a speedy drum and guitar lead section before diving into the downtrodden strums of the music at the beginning of the second half of the album. Its another emotive, vocal lead track, equipped with a neat double tap snare beat and a screeching central guitar riff.
If 'Molten Young Lovers' demonstrates one thing, it is that collectively Airiel are talented and creative songwriters; across the board the album features some fantastically encapsulating songs and performances to go along with them. The talent of the band themselves are also a strong playing factor in what makes the album a thoroughly enjoyable experience: each instrument is given as much time as the next, with equal delicacy and patience on each track as much so on the one before it. If there were criticisms to be made about the album it would be the length (twelve tracks) and the much more weighted down second half. The songs on the first half of 'Molten Young Lovers' seem to comfortably balance stylistic song writing with a comfortable weight and a brilliant sound. On the second half sometimes things tend to drag on and become slightly monotonous. Either way, it possesses some ridiculously well written songs that act as subtle reminders of past musical movements while simultaneously introducing the bands own original take on genres such as shoegaze and dream pop. Listen out for the stunning production, for the intelligent performance, and ultimately, for the sound.
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
RELEASE DATE: 6th October 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Saint Marie Records
The debut album from 'Miniatures' is a dense and lush affair. Its textures are tightly woven to create velvety soundscapes that envelope and endear. Formed in 2012 and currently based in Melbourne, the trio seem to be a further example of the strength of the Southern hemisphere's creative scene right now – especially when it comes to the dreamier side of the spectrum. The band worked with renowned Melbourne based producer Matthew Hosking to fine tweak the sounds on this album and the finished product is spectacular. 'Jessamines' floats and flickers. It gets it's full release on the 6th October 2017 via the ever reliable Saint Marie Records and you can pre-order it right now on various formats from saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com
The opening track is an immersion in the soft swirls that are found throughout this record. 'Try' is wispy and bright, but a few sharp edges reflect the light. 'Jessamine' – the title track – is a fuzzy force, not quite an iron fist in a velvet glove, but thinking about it. You can hear the Cocteau's influence in 'To The Lake'. The chorus shimmers on top, like a heat haze on the surface of the titular water. 'Form Into Soft And Wild' is beautiful whilst the guitars trill and jangle in 'Dust', setting the scene for single 'Without Saying'. A speeding journey through a large sonic landscape, there's much for students of shoegaze to savour here, from the 80s-tinged guitar sound to the vast chorus.
'Honey' is big and bright. 'What You Want' is a real highlight, driving and a touch dark. The rich vocals ride along on a fuzzy wave so gracefully and dive deep into the chorus. An eerie whirr introduces 'Silent Tide' and the colours change. Slow's spacious opening soon spills over with sounds, layered and layered. The album ends with 'Standstill' which slowly swaggers towards the exit, each step cushioned by clouds of fuzz. It's a grand end to an album with ambition.
In her time, Sarah Cuthbert-Kerr has attended raves and rock clubs. She enjoys pedals, pizza and spy dramas. Sarah also plays guitar in Edinburgh-based noisemakers Wozniak and is co-founder of Morningside Young Team who put on gigs and put out records for discerning audiences who enjoy fuzz and confusion.
ARTIST: Pastel Coast
RELEASE: Vague Noire
RELEASE DATE: 9th September 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Collective Noord Sfeer Records
Just only last year I began my stint with the ever-prestigious Primal Music blog, and with that stint begun revelling in the unearthing of many a brilliant band, musician, artist and producer. There is nothing more satisfying than receiving a CD from France, a thank you from the US or a recommendation from Brazil and announcing to your friends a list of reasons why they should listen to them, enjoy them and soak them up. At the end of last year, amongst the revelling and soaking process, I decided to construct a rough ‘Releases of the Year’ list and saw in my rear view mirror a grand appreciation and acclaim for two releases in particular. One was a return from the murky depths of the past by one of the most underrated bands in the history of popular music; US shoegaze/noise veterans 'The Veldt' appeared and drowned out their critics with a mesmerizingly beautiful five track EP that balanced shoegaze, trap music and noise pop with the contextual hymns of their past. The other release could not have been more different: from France I heard the lush, beautiful and unique sounds of 'Pastel Coast', a one man project that combined nostalgic overtures and dreamy tones with the guitar and synth lead production of indie pop. The EP, entitled 'Sense', was a melding of emotive guitar music and the kind of sun-drenched downtrodden attitudes of an evening spent on dirty beaches that made it so breathtakingly beautiful I could not stop talking to it and listening enough. So, when I heard that 'Pastel Coast' was to release a new EP, entitled 'Vague Noire', I turned my ears on again and awaited an opportunity to hear one of the worlds most interesting non-professional artists paint pictures with sounds, words and textures all over again. 'Vague Noire' was released back on the 9th September 2017 and is available to buy/download right now via pastelcoast.bandcamp.com
Vague Noire by Pastel Coast
‘Roses’ opens the EP, a guitar tinkering based track backed by a drum machine style beat. The vocals are deeper, perhaps a shade darker in texture than on 'Sense', but the music retains the playfully pop-infused jangle, interspersed with fantastic production and guitar tricks. Underneath the initial mix of guitars, bass and drums lies a neat soundscape-styled synth track that adds a more dreamy quality to the song. After the three minute mark 'Pastel Coast' showcases his fantastic guitar tricks with an intricate and ridiculously rewarding outro for the listener. ‘La Fille Aux Yeux d’Or’ follows with a similar musical structure: bouncing drums guide the guitars and bass through the outskirts of the song. However on ‘La Fille Aux Yeux d’Or’ the riffs and vocals take a more concentrated stance, sounding deeper and darker than on the EPs opening track. The fantastic guitar-orientated instrumental passages of ‘Roses’ appears even more prominently on ‘La Fille Aux Yeux d’Or’ especially on the second half of the track, making the song an easy EP highlight.
The lighthearted pop of ‘Malo Les Bains’ reaches an almost danceable level of bounce and tempo. The alluring French vocal offers a fantastically layered sketch of driving in the hills of ones hometown or dancing with friends long after the bar has closed: it is with these simple tricks that songs like ‘Malo Les Bains’ connect and resonate with the listener on a level of pure enjoyment and admiration. ‘Araginee’ sounds like it was a left over from 'Sense', its more reverb-centric guitar lead and keyboard backed sound allows it too come off (in a positive way) as like a sort of philosophised dance club track. Still in the backbone of the song (much like the others) is the core elements of indie pop music that make the song appear less experimental and, perhaps, more approachable as such. The title track appears as a cross between the dreamy, pop infused songs that have appeared throughout Vague Noire, and a more post-punk styled sound. While still light hearted, its chorus alters the landscape; carving out a more dark but entrancingly beautiful sound: another EP highlight.
Although a review of 'Vague Noire' is not an opportunity to balance its credibility upon a comparison between itself and 'Sense', it is important to note the transitions and influence that 'Pastel Coast' evokes from one to another. I’ll preface my thoughts on 'Vague Noire' by openly stating that I believe 'Sense' is a better EP, a fact that I thought would be integral to my opinions. Where 'Sense' relied heavily on thematic musical elements of what most would consider dream-pop and shoegaze music, 'Vague Noire' instead sees 'Pastel Coast' attend to a more pop influenced, indie rock type sound… And that is exactly wherein its brilliance lies. You see, its easy to ride off 'Vague Noire' as simply a bunch of indie pop songs that all retain a similar drum beat, but it is within each song that the true genius of 'Pastel Coast' shines. These tracks, gathered together with a unity of similar sounds and tones, are ridiculously well constructed indie pop songs: between the evidently neat guitar playing all the way to the background ambience, each song is a well built and oiled machine. Together, these tracks provide nothing but pure entertainment, joy and acclaim. Another thing: I can’t speak French (in fact I remember I spent all of my high school mandatory French lessons listening to music) so when you listen to an EP where the gentleman singing only does so in French, and it conjures up images, memories and dreams… Then there is something wholly fantastic and intelligent going on. Much like on 'Sense', 'Pastel Coasts' greatest connection with the listener is through the nostalgia-laced visions of parties, beaches and empty dance halls, except this time it is done less contemplatively and more subtle and somewhat initially appealing for some listeners. 'Vague Noire’s' beauty and love stands out against so much damn mediocrity that listening to it was like some kind of cleansing relief… An original and enjoyable piece of art, achieved through stellar production, intricate mixing and beautiful sound.
ARTIST: Citrus Clouds
RELEASE: Ultra Sound
RELEASE DATE: 22nd September 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Custom Made Music
Phoenix based desert-gaze trio ‘Citrus Clouds’ have announced the highly anticipated follow up to their debut full length album ‘Imagination’ which was released back in November 2016 via Custom Made Music. This new release entitled 'Ultra Sound' has it's official unveiling on the 22nd September 2017 and it consists of seven brand new tracks that swirl effortlessly in a sonic style that only 'Citrus Clouds' can create. The band are made up of Eric Pineda, Stacie Huttleston & Anthony Jarero and collectively they create stunning soundscapes that swim effortlessly through swathes of reverberating shoegaze and addictive, dreamy vocal lines that are impressively underpinned by steadying percussion and sublime instrumentation. 'Ultra Sound' is available to pre-order right now via citrusclouds.bandcamp.com
Ultra Sound by Citrus Clouds
The repetitive tap of percussion announces the EP's opening track entitled 'Ocean Eyes' and it not long before we're awash in that Citrus Clouds trademark luscious wall of melody. Hazy guitars underpinned by the subtle throb of bass frequencies collectively swirl around that impressive vocal performance. There's a brilliant ethereal vocal highlight that touches each line throughout the chorus parts and that instantly catapults this track into a fantastic dream-pop state and it marks another level in 'Citrus Clouds' continuously evolving sound. Up next, 'You Loved Me First' fizzes into life held fast in an addictive shoegaze orientated cloud. Beautifully melodic duel vocal tracks meander through warbling guitar stabs and humming bass lines as that steady percussive swagger holds perfect time. Catchy chord structures and hook laden instrumental sequences mark this track out as a favourite of mine and let's not forget that impressive lead break and its soaring reverberations. Simply stunning!
'Life Happens' trembles on a quivering bass signature before opening up into a swirling maelstrom of mind numbing reverberations held fast to a punchy percussive swagger and overlaid by majestic vocalisations. A repetitive lead guitar line races in and out of the collective instrumentation casting magical sonic spells throughout the ether whilst 'Happy' (reminiscent at times to early 90's era 'Lemonheads') explodes into a cacophony of hazy sound waves and lazily undulates through laid back vocalisations, catchy chorus lines and sticky instrumentation that seems to linger long after the track ends. Up next is another favourite! 'Is This Real?' echoes in a 4AD kind of way. It's opening salvos sound like thunder before mellowing out into a melody driven slice of blissed out desert gaze. Jangling guitars ride a busy drum pattern deftly delivering that immense vocal take as it's distinct chord changes are permeated by the throb of bass and deep echoes of reverb.
The EP's penultimate piece entitled 'Here Is Where We Are' is drenched in luscious reverb and this helps immensely with it's atmospheric opening bars, instilling a kind of fragility that is both addictive and melancholic all at once. As per the norm for Citrus Clouds this track unfurls it's sonic tendrils and we're absolutely drenched in a collective downpour of melody as lead guitars soar into the ether accompanied by those beautifully intense backing vocals, cascading bass and that steady percussive assault. The EP closes out with what is one of the best pieces of music that I think I've heard this year. 'A Dream Of You' is a meandering wave of jangling desert-gaze. Lazy percussion keeps metronomic time as warbling guitars and a bloody brilliant bass line protects that haunting vocal line. The chord sequences on this track are absolutely fantastic and catch you off guard as they seamlessly connect verse and chorus with a pull of whammy bar and that downward step of heavy bass and as for that stunning instrumental break ...... well you'll have to hear that for yourself ..... THIS IS MUSIC!
As EP's go 'Ultra Sound' is one of the best I've heard this year. It's so exciting to hear a bands development from their early releases until now with each release being a positive step forward. As far as I'm concerned this band have gone from strength to strength and they've worked hard to create a sound all to themselves in a scene that is so bloody diluted right now the hip scensters are fighting over genre tags!
Los Angeles based hazy dream pop aficionado Todavía aka self-releasing multi instrumentalist Rhyan Riesgo has unleashed a stunning new video to accompany the immense track 'Fallen' lifted of Todavía's fantastic full length album entitled 'Shyness' released back in April 2017. Todavía's sound is distinctly dreamy, with hushed synth swells, sequenced percussion, swirling guitars and shimmering reverberation that all circumnavigates that almost ethereal vocal tone. This mesmerising video was filmed & edited by Elijah Reynozo with the full album available to buy/download right now on various formats via todaviamusic.bandcamp.com
'Fallen' is beautifully serine, whispering breathe of fresh air. Tumbling guitar signatures subtly fall in amongst floating synth swells as Rhyan deploys the best vocal take on the whole entire album and takes the listener on a melancholic journey of sonic discovery.
ARTIST: Ask For Joy
RELEASE: A Blow And A Kiss
RELEASE DATE: 10th September 2107
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
Texas based Aaron Rossetto aka 'Ask For Joy' has been wowing the underground shoegaze fraternity for quite some time with his fuzzy blissed out musical compositions deftly filled with inspired melancholic subject matter. His ninth release aptly titled 'A Blow And A Kiss' is an immense five track EP that had it's official release back on September 10th 2017. The EP is available to buy/download right now via askforjoy.bandcamp.com
A Blow and a Kiss EP by Ask For Joy
In a haze of shimmering guitar frequencies, ‘Under A Breaking Wave’ washes effervescent swathes of reverberation over this listener and pours ripple after ripple of immense atmospheric sound waves out into the ether. Melancholic vocalisations ride the melodic wall of sound as bubbling bass notes hum and throb alongside repetitive drum patterns and soaring synth swells making ‘Under A Breaking Wave’ a triumphant opening salvo. Up next, ‘Luna’ swirls into audible range tumbling gracefully through layer after layer of blissed out sonic waves as it’s heavenly vocalisations float effortlessly on pulses of sparse percussion and cascading instrumentation. Catchy hook laden chorus progressions pull beautifully intense chord sequences into view, allowing those stunning vocal lines to soar blissfully out into the ether.
The EP’s lead single entitled ‘Corsets’ bounces into ether and quickly unfurls it’s sonic tendrils. It tumbles headlong through layers of shimmering reverb as it’s sparse percussion resonates through the swirl of guitar and the echo of simplistic vocalisations. There’s a subtle hint of post-punk nestling under the surface of this dreamy track as it meanders and arc’s brilliantly along a luscious predestined verse/chorus route before ‘Ask For Joy’ dismisses with the intoxicating haze and allows it to explode into a veritable melting pot of shimmering instrumentation that includes the addition of a brilliant trumpet line making this track my favourite on the entire release. ‘Deep Into The Night’, the EP’s penultimate piece, explodes into a kaleidoscope of colourful sound waves before driving into the ether on a thunderous percussive pattern intertwined with swirling guitars. Throbbing bass frequencies add a lysergic kind of atmosphere that envelopes an impressive vocal take as cascading synth progressions tumble and fall through masses of reverb and a hazy wall of melodic guitars. ‘Rebirth’ closes proceedings swirling gracefully through dreamy sonic incantations filled with glistening synth swells and addictive guitar progressions. Repetitive drum patterns hold everything together spectacularly as those totally addictive vocalisations pull you in with them as they begin a spiralling journey of luscious sonic discovery. A brilliant ending to a wonderful EP.
RELEASE: Sleep Cycle
RELEASE DATE: 21st July 2017
Tunisian based shimmering dream-gaze duo 'Retrieval' unleashed their latest album entitled 'Sleep Cycle' to the masses back on the 21st July 2017 and as far as we're concerned this instantly catapulted them into the 'Best Of 2017' category in the process. Their previous incarnation stood firmly in indie rock territory but boy are we glad that they decided to step outside that generic melting pot and turn their attention to pastures new. Their collective sound now swirls effortlessly through hazy 90's era shoegaze but is definitely underscored with modern instrumentation & production techniques that lifts their sonic footprint to new heights. The band are made up of Omar Chouikha - vocals/guitar/drums/ synths & Tima Savchenko - vocals/guitar/bass/synths and 'Sleep Cycle' is available to buy/download right now via retrieval.bandcamp.com
Sleep Cycle by Retrieval
The albums opener bounds into the sonic arena in a rush of percussion and hazy reverberation. ‘Away’ soars through the ether on waves of turbulent guitar and throbbing bass frequencies, deftly circumnavigating impressive dual vocalisations. Up next, my favourite track, ‘Sleep Cycle’ screams into audible range with it’s soaring guitar signatures enveloping fragile vocalisations as it’s steady almost metronomic drum patterns keep everything strapped down. Intricate chord structures make way for catchy hook laden chorus changes allowing haunting vocal tracks to shimmer and undulate through layers of mesmerising production whilst ‘Calling’ floats effortlessly on a slow melodic frequency laden guitar progression accompanied by those stunning vocal tracks and an explosive percussive swagger. ‘Waves’ opening bars tremble on crisp acoustic frequencies before the track explodes into a melee of hazy instrumentation that is absolutely drenched in stunning reverb. Slow and ambling drum patterns guide this soundscape through meandering psychedelic impressions as it’s ghost like vocalisations float along in close proximity, rising and falling with every single chord change wrapped in luscious lines of lead guitar and the constant twang of acoustic vibrations.
‘Costal Life’ swirls into earshot on atmospheric samples, subtle fret noise and wavy instrumentation before ‘Bones’ erupts into a cloud of fuzzy splendour as it’s lumbering vocal tracks cut a v-shaped wedge into a massive wall of beautiful noise. Lead guitars wail as bass frequencies throb, collectively rocking on a bedrock of heady noise, synth and precision drum tracking. Up next, ‘In The Frame’ is a noisy modern day shoegazing beast with powerful guitars and post-metal like vocal tracks whilst ‘Shut Down’ loops and arcs through massive swathes of stunning reverb as it’s wispy vocalisations magically intertwine with bass frequencies, soaring lead guitar, bubbling synth swells and beautifully atmospheric production. The albums penultimate piece entitled ‘Luna’ is steeped in an ambient hue with subtle sonic reflections that swirl momentarily through layers of tumbling psychedelia before noisy guitars, plodding bass progressions and pounding hi-hat heavy percussion take over, dragging the track kicking and screaming into a melding of post-rock or post-metal with a dollop of soaring shoegaze for good measure. It’s all very confusing instrumentally but deeply satisfying all the same. The album closes out with ‘Lessons’, a droning malicious entity filled with noisy guitars and overfed pedal boards. Melodic vocal lines twist themselves around fuzz filled frequencies as hazy production swallows up any chord changes crazy enough to pop their head over the sonic parapet. Again there is a definite post-rock edge to this track as it undulates through the ether on an atmospheric and percussion-less voyage. A fitting end to a rather interesting album.
ARTIST: Crash City Saints
RELEASE: Are You Free?
RELEASE DATE: 11th August 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Saint Marie Records
From the city of Kalamazoo, Michigan (apparently it’s across from Milwaukee, over Lake Michigan) comes 'Crash City Saints' and the interestingly bold and grand concept album they have created, entitled 'Are You Free?'. Released via the ever interesting 'Saint Marie Records' (whose back catalogue includes the impressive SPC ECO, Bloody Knives and The History of Colour TV), 'Are You Free?' tells the story of a boys attempts to mature and bloom in a small town in the 90’s when shoegaze was dense and on rotation in the mainstream and underground of the American music scene. 'Crash City Saints' have obviously utilized said music from the time and adopted it into a mix of shoegaze and alt-rock to tell a story over the course of twelve tracks that hails the significance of influence while also celebrating the freedom of originality in the context of modern music. 'Are You Free?' was released back on the 11th August 2017 and is available right now to buy/download on various formats via saintmarierecords.bandcamp.com
Are You Free? by Crash City Saints
The album opens with ‘Ice Cream’ a nice little jolt of pop-based alternative rock that highlights the hushed MBV style vocalisations and strumming acoustic guitar. There are several fantastic moments, including the churning-downtrodden shoegaze riffs that are touched upon at around the one minute thirty mark, as well as a tasteful string instrument in the background of the music. ‘Spring Lines’ owes more to a soft kind of neo-grunge rather than shoegaze, but nevertheless showcases the instrumentation and weave in-out aesthetic of the guitars. As it is on much of the album, the drumming is tight and impressive; highlighted sufficiently and smoothly in the mix. ‘Weirdos Need Love To’ fits in well as a kind of interlude between the narrative structure of the main songs whilst 'Use Once Then Dispose’ is an absolute album highlight; the post-punk double tap snare and 90’s inspired guitars meld fanatically together to create a rock-inspired atmosphere; the vocals hum away, touching on lyrically much darker themes than have been explored previously on the album. That’s not to say they are not well written, actually it’s quite the opposite. ‘Spirit Photography’ is a smooth, aesthetically enjoyable take on what sounds like 90’s era Brit-pop, while also (eventually) smothering the track in Shoegaze based guitar freak-outs. A very enjoyable experimental track, ‘Spirit Photography’ sheds the skin of the previous songs pop elements; making way for emotive and warped guitar based-psych passages of song writing. I assume ‘Act 2’ is named as such because it brings forth another stage of story and narrative; either way, as a song it feels one of little narrative importance (lyrics are drowned out in a vocal effects) while the whole song takes an almost lo-fi quality (not complaining).
‘Dawn of A Bright New Nothing’ introduces a fantastic Barrett-esque piano line into the mix, making the song one of the most purely enjoyable on the album. Yes, that’s right, this reviewer has significantly enjoyed a song because it sounds, is mixed and feels nice and relaxed. ‘Annabella’ returns to a much more alternative rock sound, the chord progression of the bass and guitar highlighting a progressive rock influence that played an integral role in the development of shoegaze music back in the 90’s. Its outro, featuring a guitar solo over the vocal chant/hum ‘you don’t know my name’ is particularly satisfying. Another interlude follows before one of the longest tracks of the album ‘The Hour Of The Wolf’ opens with a sequencer based EDM style sound. Although this aforementioned beat grows tiring after a while, this doesn’t cease the track from growing into a heavy, loud and colourful collection of sounds and noise, backed by the thrashing of the drums. The outro guitar picking is especially amazing and very much in-context of the seven minute long song. The following dream-pop based ‘Harbour Lights’ remains a sonic (but almost as equally lengthy) contrast to the previous wild melding’s of ‘The Hour Of The Wolf’. In fact, ‘Harbour Lights’ is an album highlight: the guitar tones and overall atmosphere of the song congregate into a dream pop/shoegaze breath of fresh air after the previous songs noise and drenched soundscapes.
Releasing a concept album of any type is a big and daring leap. Will people be able to detail the story (if the concept is narrative)? Will the story get in the way of the music? What about the other way around? 'Crash City Saints' have previously stated there is a narrative kind of concept behind the album, and at times while listening to 'Are You Free?' I was lost as to what (if anything) was actually going on, but then I realized that its concept lies beyond the realm of just a narrative. Over the course of the album the band swiftly (and at times intellectually subtly) incorporate and throw influence and nods to the American music underground of the nineties. There's grunge, dreampop, alt-rock, dance and electronica, shoegaze and many more… This album is a musical exploration in concept rather than a boring ‘he does this, then she does that’ kind of structure that tends to drag down and drown many ‘concept’ albums. The song writing is strong, although at times relies too heavily on formulas used on previous songs, even if it is a kind of throwback. The mixing and production (done so by Elliott Frazier of Ringo Deathstarr) is of course a brilliant, but also (if you listen to a lot of it) a well-rounded and respectful throwback to the music of the 90’s. Listen for an interesting story (accompianed and helped along by interesting lyrics), great instrumentation and playing, and a reminder of the brilliant and nostalgic music of a few decades ago, achieved through production, mixing and sound.
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