Adding a disarming new trajectory to the evolution of shoegaze, the Suffolk-based originator Under the Sun (Matt Catling) constructed an ambient dreamwork of Lynchian cogitation with their three-track release Ocean Breeze.
As hazy as the titular allusion, the opening title single carries the weight of driftwood as it traverses through the meditatively industrial layers of reprising synths and delay-filtered dreamy guitars. Mastered by none other than Simon Scott (Slowdive), Ocean Breeze is a scintillating adaption of the origins of ambient soundscapes, modernised through the essence of caustic 21st-century dystopia that leaks into the transcendence of the track.
The arrestive rhythms in Ocean Breeze are a testament to Under the Sun’s ability to create sonic worlds far more accommodating than the ones we’re physically bound to. Short of taking a trip to the 5th dimension, there’s no better escapism than the sanctity that flows just as mellifluously through the following singles, Whirlwind and Soft Focus.
With Whirlwind unravelling as a tribally psychonautic fever dream and Soft Focus exhibiting Branca-Esque tendencies enveloped by the bleeding lament of the vocals, it’s an evocative conclusion to a release you don’t realise how deeply you have enmeshed with until silence falls.
Pull yourself away from your Souvlaki, Loveless and Whirlpool albums and sink into the sublime reverb-drenched alchemy in the Minneapolis Dream Pop powerhouse, Lumari’s latest single, Neon Mirror.
With just a touch more intensity in the droning guitars that cradle the ethereally demure soul in Margo Pearson’s vocals which caress you on a multi-sensory level, Lumari achieved what so few shoegaze revivalists manage in this beguile-some release. They stayed true to the originator’s sound while throwing in plenty of their own post-modern flavour.
With touches of I Wanna Be Adored in the downward spirals of pulsating rhythm, there’s nostalgia to be here for sure; there’s also an unpredictability to the structuring of the inexplicably gripping release that stands testament to their songwriting and instrumental prowess.
Prior to founding Lumari, the founding members, Dave and Dan West could be found in the punk scene, opening for Green Day, NOFX and the Offspring. Once their tastes matured into an affinity for post-modern rock and Britpop, they teamed up with shoegaze lover Robert Caple and producer Eric Olson before completing the outfit with Margo Pearson.
Neon Mirror will officially release on November 11th. Hear it on Spotify.
Taken from his first full-length album, Robert Jameson’s seminal dream pop single, Stay Awhile, is sure to appease any fans of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. But this colourful burst of sonic bliss, which comes with psychedelic hints of The Zombies, takes a slightly jazzier trip back to the alt-90s.
The signature bleeding vocals are there, but the cosmic pop factor is heightened in the complex time signatures of the warm synths and jazzy piano keys. His composition skills that allow the layers to envelop you in all of their kaleidoscopic magnetism certainly make it easy to Stay Awhile. Rarely do I hear a lead single and feel inclined to indulge in the album from a previously unknown artist, but Robert Jameson’s affable innovation makes it all too tempting.
Stay Awhile was officially released on September 21st. Check out the visualiser on YouTube.
Canadian alt-indie newcomers, Pulse Park, have sent us right back to the golden age of new wave indie with their latest release, Sine Wave. I’ve long been fascinated with the bleak tales of Shackleton and other Arctic explorers exposed to bitterly cold untold misery. To stumble on a three-piece that first met during an arctic expedition in Canada and started to learn their instruments under the unrelentingly dark skies, was nothing short of serendipitous bliss.
All of Pulse Park’s music is an effigy to the less than temperate expedition that led to the development of their morosely arresting take on off-kilter new wave indie rock. The sweeter than sweet vocals are just as melt worthy as the vocal timbre from Tiger Army, The Smiths and Slowdive while the instrumentals kick up a hypersonic storm around the emotion-driven harmonised vocals. As far as we are considered, Sine Wave is the epitome of the indie earworm.
You can check out Sine Wave for yourselves by heading over to Bandcamp.
Tragedy has a habit of letting everything pleasurable and meaningful fall into a pit of futility. When that is conflated with the virtue signalling/shaming spat at influencers and artists for carrying on with their projects, it is no surprise that there are many questioning the appropriateness of how we are conducting our lives online and offline.
It was only a couple of years ago when we were furious that the UK government tried to tell ballerinas to retrain in IT; when the Sunday Times published a poll that dubbed artists as non-essential. Then, we fiercely defended the importance of art, music, and every other form of media that gives us a brief reprieve from the misery of a late-stage capitalist world.
Sure, a few dystopic years have slipped by since, and the return of live music wasn’t quite as triumphant due to the cultural shifts that happened when we realigned our lives in the absence of the live music scenes. Just as artists were starting to pick up momentum, the value of music has once again in question, and I get it, I do. But if every time senseless tragedy struck and artists downed tools, the airwaves would be eternaly radio silent.
As for those thinking that it’s disrespectful to carry on with music in a time like this, you’re hardly bringing a clown to a funeral by keeping the cogs in the meaning-making machines that you are turning. Ever since the renaissance, music has been regarded as a humanism; that sentiment resonates just as strongly today. A few things have changed since, including artists’ ability to use their expansive platforms to do more than sell their new releases. Here are just a few ways artists and industry figures are stepping up in solidarity with Ukraine.
– On Bandcamp Friday (March 4th), artists from across the globe donated their profits from sales to Ukraine, and many more are continuing to donate their income via digital sales to Ukrainian charities for a limited time, including indie post-punk’s most enamouring baroque debonair, James Cook and the UK grunge earworm-makers, The Dying Lights.
– The revered UK punk outfit, Vice Squad, has already raised over £2,410 for Ukrainian animal rescue efforts, and their fundraiser will be running until the end of the month. To be a part of it, purchase their new EP, Humane.
On March 7th, the Disasters Committee (DEC) raised over £100m in four days. That may be a drop in the ocean considering how many people’s lives are now rubble, but the solidarity and benevolent entrepreneurship has restored my faith in humanity more than one punitive man with a stockpile of nukes could ever dent it.
A&R Factory has also donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee, and we will continue to champion artists using the power of their influence in this surreally existential time.
If your 90s Shoegaze records aren’t quite hitting the same these days, introduce yourselves to Slowdive’s noisier cousin, the London-based solo artist, Mild Horses.
The standout single, Failing Upwards, from their debut album, Ignorance to Enlightenment and Back Again, is comparable to a cocktail of the most indulgent elements of the Pixies, My Bloody Valentine and Interpol.
Listen intently, and you will get to keep hold of the sway-worthy bitter-sweet melodies that resound around the harsher no-wave elements that adrenalize the mix without ever chipping away at the ethereal soul of the release. Towards the outro, Mild Horses builds a wall of noise in his own psychedelically sonic style, making Failing Upwards all but impossible to forget.
Failing Upwards is now available to stream and purchase on Bandcamp.
With guitars that will make Slowdive fans swoon combined with tender keys and Natalie Duque’s arresting, almost angelic vocals, Silence Hurts More is everything that a contemporary ballad should be.
Silence Hurts More is just one of the singles found on her latest soul-baring 2-track release, Gemini, that carries the candid nature of Adele’s most emotionally exposing singles and a gracefully minimalist instrumental style which gives the poetically introspective lyricism more room to breathe in the soundscape.
The level of talent in the release easily matches the authenticity. We are incredibly grateful to have found Natalie Duque at this blossoming stage of her career. It is going to be incredibly satisfying watching such an accolade-worthy artist ascend.
Fox Evades is the solo project of Manchester-born singer songwriter and producer Jordan Mae. Following up the success of debut single ‘The Heart That Drowned’ and follow-up ‘Bira’, both of which garnered interest from BBC Introducing’s Hannah Fletcher, comes third single ‘Someday’.
A soaring, spacious three minutes of echoey dream-pop, reminiscent of Desperate Journalist, Belly, Slowdive, or The Cure, ‘Someday’ is deliciously gentle and atmospheric, tangibly breakable and ethereal, with a picked repeating guitar line that could have come straight from Three Imaginary Boys or Seventeen Seconds, and Mae’s haunting, delicate voice evocative of Tanya Donelly or Toni Halliday on vocal duties.
It’s truly excellent, and a beautiful, ephemeral taster for Fox Evades’ debut EP due out later this year. You can hear Someday on Spotify; follow Fox Evades on Facebook and Instagram.
‘Black Fur’ is the latest single released by the Winchester, VA-based alt-indie-rock four-piece Azure Wolf. The ethereal emboldening earworm carries nuances of the alt 90s, especially in the cool and cutting guitar tones which carry reminiscence to Neil Halstead’s (Slowdive). You’ll also pick up on grunge textures in the dark layers of the driving and all-consuming release that tackles a subject rarely spoken of, let alone sung about.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. That’s exactly what you’ll be reminded of as you listen to forming member, songwriter, rhythm guitarist and lead singer Victoria Backle use her powerful command of harmony to draw you into the track that was inspired by personal experience.
Her rich and warming vocal timbre is the perfect contrast to the chilling instrumental tones. If Paul Banks threw away the apathy and emanated strength in spite of suffering, Interpol would carry the same feisty atmospheric air found in Black Fur.
Black Fur is the fourth release from Azure Wolf since they made their debut in 2020 with the single, Dancing Bears. Their debut LP will arrive in the fall; before that, you can expect new singles to land regularly from this luminary artist.
In a time where gender seems to have become more politicised and polemic than ever before, ‘Pleasures Of Peace’, the first single from San Franciscan shoegaze quartet Moon Museum, is that sought-after magical spread of masculine and feminine, yin and yang perfectly balanced between Olivia Barchard’s epic, soaring vocals and Ryan Joseph’s wash of swooping guitars. Swathes of dreamy psychrock, awash in Gretschy 12-string and echo sit atop reverb-soaked pushing drums and driving melodic bass. There’s obvious Slowdive influences, but Lush and Belly too, Swallow, the softer parts of My Bloody Valentine, and, of course, the all-straddling Cocteau Twins Liz Fraser, and gentler elements of Curve’s Toni Halliday in the vocal mix too, alongside the Doves and Chameleons guitars.
It’s a delicious, heady, atmospheric mix of dreamrock, arcing back to the 4AD shoegaze heyday of the late ‘80s and 1990s; hypnotic and entrancing, energetic and yet calming, all at once.
Moon Museum have two further singles slated for release in 2021; on the basis of ‘Pleasures Of Peace’, we can’t wait to hear them, too.