RELEASE: Impact Bliss
RELEASE DATE: 28th April 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Prairie State Records
‘Impact Bliss’ is a lengthy album by Wisconsin based shoegaze outfit Township; it’s an original and downtrodden piece of shoegaze with one defining feature to its arsenal: it’s deliciously refreshing. But how is it refreshing? It’s refreshing because it fully showcases the beauty and power of heavy and thick, drowned out shoegaze without cranking any reverb pedals up to 1 million. The songs all dance around quietly, touched upon perhaps most obviously by genres like slowcore and the darker side of alternative rock. In fact, on some of the songs, Township are more of a slowcore band than they are shoegaze or anything else. The songs are haunting, dark sketches of truly emotive music; structurally thin but ridiculously rich at the same time. Altogether, it is the purity and directness of the song writing that makes the band and their stylistic choices stand out so strongly against a crowd of blindfolded kids who think the greatest way to go about things is to possum stomp a reverb pedal and hide behind a Spector-style wall of sound. The album was released back on the 28th April 2017 through Chicago based independent record label Prairie State Records and it is available to buy/download right now on various formats via prairiestaterecords.bandcamp.com
‘Turquoise Kiss’ opens the release, heavy and downtrodden with the subtle squeal of a very well written guitar riff. Following from this is the albums most signature element; slow and quiet dynamics; presenting an eerie layer of vocals. The songs chorus sounds positively alternative rock based, punctuated by a return to the opening guitar riff and the slower turn of the bands sound. ‘Yes & Yes’ opens with the same slowcore-elements briefly touched upon on ‘Turquoise Kiss’. This time however, most of the song centres around slow, plucking guitar rhythms and a meditatively dark vocal performance; perhaps summarizing the atmosphere that feels laced around the sound of the song. For most of its duration, the song remains slow and quiet; restraining itself against the desire to launch fully into a drowned out-feedback landscape. For this reason, there is a great sense of patience-centred admiration for ‘Yes & Yes’ and for Township themselves, for withholding and resisting the easy, simple and generic song writing strategies so many other bands love to love. ‘Be If Me’ stands out less than the former tracks, but its much more post-rock orientated sound highlights some elements of the bands song writing that remained unexplored on the opening tracks. The heavier and rock-ier chorus drowns out some of the emotional rawness of the previous tracks also. This is not to say it doesn’t deserve a place on the record as at least an interesting listen.
‘Catch a Wish’ offers one of the most stripped back portraits of the band on the entire release; most of the track centres around the hushed, claustrophobic vocals and the slow, noisy rumble of a background guitar. This combination of the tense and close, and the wild and far away proves to be beautifully poignant in terms of the impact of the song, while also distancing and adding conceptual context to the opposing heavy-guitar driven elements at the start of the release. ‘Impact’ is another slow and wavy piece of guitar based slowcore music, although the introduction of what sounds like a string section in the songs backing and small percussive xylophone opens a beautiful passage to the dreampop style riff that follows. Contemplative and somewhat meditative in its glowing, ‘Impact’ marks a full circle of sorts for the world of Impact Bliss; its full circle of skin shedding, and then re-applying, tastes all the more sweet as the brilliant song writing aesthetics do what they do (and do so neatly) on ‘Impact’. The weightier, weaving sound of ‘The Tunnel At The End of The Light’ follows; showcasing a tad more epic length than the other tracks on the album… Dabbling over the seven minute mark with smashing and pounding drums. Things turn somewhat prog-rock as the song twists and turns; built most predominantly around the bash of the cymbals of rolling of the drums. Things culminate into a shoegaze-heavy passage following the chorus; guitars an vocals bounce off into a kind of softness between the sounds.
‘Impact Bliss’ may not be one distinctive kind of music (it’s not a shoegaze album, just how its not a dream pop album, just as much as its not slowcore album), but this may be one of its most defining features. In a similar way, tracks and songs are not completely forgein from one another; a weaving conceptual form ties the songs together quite nicely across the board. It is hard to throw direct criticisms at Impact Bliss, why is that? You ask? Because it is so tightly and successfully wound and bound together from song to song that it does not leave much room for criticism. Almost every track is an interesting and engaging listening experience; supported by solid, thoughtful and refreshing song writing. The only fault one could place upon the entire release is the tone and presentation of the vocals, which sometimes sound borderline whingy across the album. But for most that won’t be a thought at all, rather, they’ll be concentrating on a thorough and strong album by a band whose distinctive charm is not one constructed of lazy clichés, but of effort, patience and relief; proposed, presented and played out through production, mixing and sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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.