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Shoegazer





Jeremy Bastard threads the needle on debut LP

“Slipshod, down by evening

I needle cabarets

I cannot quit the feeling

I dressed up anyway--“

 

"Needle” is a word rife with many different meanings. A needle used to be required to hear pre-recorded music and maybe it still is if you're a vinyl junkie. You also need one to sew a sweater or scarf and other warm and fuzzy things. But "to needle" someone means to bug the hell out of them in a very un-warm and fuzzy fashion. Intravenous needles are used to save lives. But they're also synonymous with drug addition and deadly ODsAnd when you're on "pins and needles” you’re not sure whether to anticipate or to dread a future event. 

“Needle” is also the first song on Jeremy Bastard's Everyone Is History, There Is No Memory, his first full LP as the featured performer and producer. The album is full of warm analogue synths tones but mixed with a coldwave sensibility, and the overall sound is by turns murky and sleek or sometimes both at once. And who knows if we're talking about good needles or bad ones in a song like this, but either way much of music has a pins and needles quality to it in a way that reminds me of the Tech Noir scene in the first Terminator movie.

For one thing there's the death disco vibe of "Needle" that sounds just right for an 80s club with a chain link fence around a neon-saturated dance floor. But there's also something about the sound design like in how the soundtrack gets all echoey and distant sounding just as the scene above transitions to slo-mo visuals. And then the music transitions from diegetic to non-diegetic sound, but so gradually and seamlessly you could miss it if you're immersed in the action too much but it alters your perceptions either way.

Jeremy Bastard's music does this same thing too with overlapping layers of sound that alters your perceptions. Like when waves of echo seems to coalesce and follow their own rhythmic logic independent of the rest of the song. Or when a sound is pushed into the red far enough that you can get lost in its ruptured, distorted interiors. Overall there's a clear focus on being diffuse on the record (Official Paradox of the Day) but just don't get it twisted because this isn't an experimental noise project. It's still a dance record but one that threads the needle with sonic experimentation. 

Take for instance the first of the two tracks featuring Electra Monet on vocals, whose singing could be described as Nico-esque or if you prefer Jane Birkin-esque. Normally if you've got a voice like this to work with you'd expect the producer to make that voice sound as angelic and ethereal and "pure" as possible. Ms. Monet's singing on “Shadow Boxing” is all these things except pure (and all the better for it) because the production highlights the grit and grain of her voice (including, most unusually, the sibilance of echoing "Sssss" sounds) and of the instrumental sounds from the pounding drums to the insistent keyboard ostinato to the John McGeoch like guitar outro. These are dreampop angels with dirty faces.

But then next the third track "Love is a Mistake" (featuring Disolve) would be a perfect fit for John Hughes’ never realized sequel to Pretty in Pink because it's a hooky indie-electro-pop song with romantically tragic overtones that would be perfect for the scene where Duckie drives up to the class reunion blasting the song on his car's cassette player still bitter at how he didn't get Molly Ringwald in the end (sidebar: the ending of Pretty in Pink was changed because Duckie wasn’t considered Molly-worthy enough by test audiences). 

And Jeremy Bastard could play the DJ at the reunion prom because that's something he does too. And on Everyone Is History he holds onto that DJ-minded curatorial mindset by featuring a different singer/lyricist/collaborator on every other track or two, and according to Jeremy himself it was the motivating spark behind the entire project. Exiled to Florida for much of the past year, Jeremy turned to producing and long-distance collaborations as a way to maintain creative momentum and human contact. And in the process he may have found his future musical lane, or one of them, because this one-on-one approach apparently suits his creative muse, at least judging by other recent releases in this format (see below) and bonus non-album tracks from the album's various collaborators that keep popping up as b-sides to its singles like needles in a haystack. (Jason Lee)





Queen Mob bring on the "Pop Sickle"

Queen Mob are a two-piece from Psychedelphia, who as individuals go by the names Beth and Colin, and if they placed a band personals ad it'd probably read something like “freak-folk-shoegaze-vaporwave band seeks absolutely no one because we don’t collaborate and we don’t cooperate.” 

Over the past year Queen Mob have released one album and one EP (Easy, Liger and Against A Pale Background) and three singles (“Comeback,” “Sidecar,” and “Pop Sickle”) the last of which I’m declaring to be the best runaway-carousel/broken-calliope music I’ve heard since MGMT’s “Lady Dada’s Nightmare”. 

In their recorded work to date the band have already demonstrated impressive range by alternately sounding like an inebriated Beck, an inebriated Swervedriver, and an inebriated Jandek (so, just, Jandek). Or maybe instead of inebriated they're just experimental. It's not really our business how they get to that place. 

Beth herself describes the single above as “haunted dystopian electronic music” and that strikes me as pretty accurate for their lastest music. So hop on to the merry-go-round and hold to your horse pole becuase Queen Mob will take you on a ride. (Jason Lee)





Bootblacks on Cherry Bomb livestream tonight

Much like a certain storied pair of shiny shiny, shiny boots of leather, the music of Bootblacks is highly polished, austere and severe. And when it kicks you in the face you’ll beg for more, much like Severin in thrall to Wanda von Dunajew.

Residing somewhere in a batcave in Brooklyn (perhaps neighbors with Eddie Murphy?) these stalwart somber-hued postpunkers not too long ago released their forth full-length Thin Skies. Check out the music vid above for the full effect, and then give a listen to their Live At Saint Vitus set released in December.

Speaking of all thing Venusian, tonight Bootblacks appear as part of Cherry Bomb: International Women’s Day Charity Livestream originating straight outta Philly starting at 7pm EST with 12 bands & DJs benefiting 12 relevant charities with co-hosting duties shared by Lazy Astronomer and DJ Baby Berlin and streaming live on the latter’s Twitch channel. Click HERE for the full lineup and check out videos by a few of the other featured performers below.

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Mevius gets "Washed Out"

Released exactly one minute before midnight on December 31, 2020, the opening moments of the opening track “Washed Out” on Meviu§’s latest EP, Washed Out, is the perfect soundtrack for the way I remember feeling at that precise time--sitting at home by myself with “hands tied behind my back / and face down on the floor.” Well, figuratively *ahem*. It’s been a strange couple of months or couple of years. Wait, what day is it? Oh yeah it’s Bandcamp Friday Day™ which means that it’ll not only cost you a mere pittance to buy the Meviu§ EP, but also that the entire pittance will go straight into the hot pockets of Meviu§ which'll help him be able to buy an actual Hot Pocket™ and avoid starvation for another day. As of the time of writing you've got about five-and-a-half hours left so go buy it now!

OK back to those opening moments of “Washed Out” and the slowly-unfurling echoey guitar arpeggio whose notes fold back in on themselves and suck you, the listener, into a swirling sonic vortex that serves as the perfect launching pad for the rest of the song with its somehow both driving and turgid guitar work & rhythm section in the instrumental parts and stripped down verses and catchy melodic choruses. It’s a Cure-worthy opening, and song overall, especially if you’re into Disintegration and Wish era Cure back when the mascara-smudged Camus-quoting Friday-loving gothsters managed to have a couple bonafide pop-chart hits here in the US which is pretty crazy when you think about it now. And on this note it bears pointing out how Meviu§ has a similar grasp of combining catchy tunes with serious “in your feels” feels.

But, hey you, I wonder why Robert Smith & Friends loved Friday so much? I thought these boys were supposed to be sad. Well duh because it's Bandcamp Friday™ in case you already forgot! I mean sure Bandcamp wasn’t even close to existing yet in 1992 but obviously The Cure had a premonition, which is pretty impressive considering how just about every GeoCities-induced psychedelic headtrip of a web site during those years looked as if the entire cast of Saved By The Bell had just projectile vomited on your monitor screen (RIP Dustin Diamond) creating a big mess of neon backdrops and spinning icons and animated-and-sometimes-flaming text. and how in this world could you ever order something so pragmatic as vinyl records, or these new things called em-pee-threes, on these strange primitive machines but I digress.

 
Anyway I didn’t mean to imply that the entire Meviu§ EP sounds like the Cure because it doesn’t. In fact it’s got a pretty wide stylistic range for just four songs. Track number two “Find You” features Edith Pop on co-vocals and it’s a nice downbeat acoustic ballad that’ll have you weeping in your kombucha with its aching harmonies and doleful sentiments. Up next is “Ghost of Memory (Ghost Stories Remix)” which at times reminds me of Moon Safari era Air but just when you think Kelly Better Keep Watching Those Stars there’s suddenly an Aphex Twin-y breakdown so hey you never know. And then on track number four the EP wraps up with “Maybe Next Year (featuring Searmanas)” but specifically in the form of the “Jeremy Bastard Remix” although I hear that really he’s just misunderstood. This closer features an immersive darkwave groove and some more female-to-male harmonizing from the aforementioned Searmanas and it's truly an apropos song title and musical vibe to go out on. But maybe just maybe if we’re all lucky next year will come before next year. (Jason Lee)





Sunflares EP

One good thing about playing in a one-man shoegaze band is that you always know whose shoes you’re gazing at. And for a style of music that’s the aural equivalent of cocooning, this sense of isolation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On Sunflares EP, which you guessed it, is the coming-out EP by Sunflares, a project said to be inspired by the isolation of quarantine (wait, better make that the “staying in EP”) the alone time appears to have paid dividends.

And the same goes for listening to the EP for those of us under our fifth or sixth lockdown. When lines like “Are you out there?” and “I wanna know your secrets” emerge from the layers of fuzz and flange they sound eerily familiar as they’re questions I’ve been asking myself after sitting at home for the whole night, drinking an entire case of Bud Light that was planned to last for the rest of the week or longer, but at least existential crises keep things interesting. Shoegazer, know thyself.

Sunflares’ opening track “Numb” kicks things off with some nice Lush-like swirly guitars, but any trace of Sweetness and Light is quickly interrupted when the song shifts into Superblast mode with distortion turned up to 13, but with a cool little Cure-like melody over the top and some satisfying tom-tom fills, before settling into the first verse with this enterprise’s Kevin Shields fully engaged and phaser pedals set to stun, all ready to swoop in and take out the Ringo Deathstarr. And here’s a couple music videos for those two very subtle Lush references I made because I’m always looking for a good excuse to post Lush videos.

In other words, Mr. Sunflare hits the major signposts you’d hope to hear on a 2021 shoegaze album (or shoegaze EP let’s not be pedantic here) with satisfying walls of sound and layers of effects-laden guitar smeared across this EP like strawberries and cream. But at the same time there’s some enticing twists and things are mixed up nicely overall, between and within the four tracks on offer, with shifting tempos and textures and heavy-devy parts and dreamy ambient parts. And finally here’s a video for the even more artfully subtle Cure reference contained in this paragraph. (Jason Lee)

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