you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

16 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Miniatures | Jessamines. By Elizabeth Klisiewicz.

Miniatures - Jessamines (Saint Marie Records)

I’ve known about this album for a while. Back in 2016, I first communicated with guitarist Ché Walden and he was kind enough to send me a copy. He was also searching for a label and the band’s vocalist had left the fold (not sure if she ever came back), and happily, they are now on the venerable Saint Marie Records here in the US. Both Ché and vocalist Annemarie Duff hail from New Zealand but pulled up stakes and moved to Melbourne, the band’s home base. With the addition of Chris MacLean on bass, the band worked with renowned Melbourne producer Matthew Hosking on this debut release.

To say it’s a beauty of a record, full of shimmering goodness, is an understatement. It contains all the elements to send psych/shoegaze fans into aural overdrive. Annemarie’s cooing vocals perfectly suit this densely textured music, and Ché knows his way around a guitar. Hard to believe it’s only three people working in tandem, but the wonders of modern day studios make it all happen. This is no paint by numbers gaze as so many others are; they really have found a niche with their sound. Note that I put psych next to shoegaze above. To me, they go hand in hand with dream pop. It’s like a trifecta of cool, and Miniatures dips its toes into all three streams, though shoegaze is probably the primary genre explored here.

Starting out with the ethereal “Try”, you’ll be dosed with a touch of tranquil ambience mashed up with dreamy electronica. It’s not far off from the work Slowdive is producing now. The title track “Jessamine” is a barn burner with aggressive percussion that when peeled back, stands next to gracefully rendered guitar and Duff’s sweet vocals. “To the Lake” sounds the most like one of their influences (Lush), with guitars skittering lightly off the top of a towering stack of gauze. Hazy, dazy, and wonderful!

“Dust” has a rollicking beat that really appeals to me. “Without Saying” is like a dash of the Thames Valley 90s brought forward in time. It has a very determined focus on that classic sound, and I love skipping down memory lane as I listen. “Honey” is the obvious hit (to me), with its massive hooks and an instant head bobbing beat. Instant love! “What You Want” is another tune I’m fixated on, with its wall of fuzzed out gaze and Annemarie’s crystalline vocals.

No matter how much noise covers the main melody, you can’t keep it from soaring above all else. On this end, the somewhat ominous “Silent Tide” competes with the mournful wail of a distant train chugging by. I like the weather shift in mood, as this darker dream pop really suits the band. The final tune “Standstill” is contemplative and serene, bringing down the energy for a time before ending in fuzzed out bliss. A wonderful record from an emerging new talent! 

13 October 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: The Luxembourg Signal | Blue Field. By Elizabeth Klisiewicz.

The Luxembourg Signal - Blue Field (Shelflife Records)

This seven-piece band from Los Angeles is known among dream pop fans for their particularly delicious take on this genre. They also aren’t averse to mixing it up with psych either, as do their friends in Soft Science. The band's lineup of Beth Arzy & Betsy Moyer (vocals), Johnny Joyner (guitars), Brian Espinosa (drums) and Ginny Pitchford (keyboards) has been expanded with the addition of Kelly Davis (guitars) and Daniel Kumiega (bass). The septet worked with engineer Mark Rains on Blue Field, and the results are outstanding. With that housekeeping out of the way, let’s get to the music. 

I could throw out a bunch of names for comparison, but nothing really comes to mind. Meaning, nothing here is derivative, though it is evocative, drawing in different eras of classic music without borrowing heavily from them. Singers Beth and Betsy meld together seamlessly with their gentle, cool vocals laying perfectly on top of assured guitar signatures with tons of reverb and a massive soundscape. “There’s Nothing Better Than a Well-Made Machine” starts off with a riff that reminds me of classic Roxy Music, and the cool brush of technology with warmer vocals is a nice contrast. It all stays slightly alienated in that synthy 80s way we all remember. “Atomic No. 10” is a tune I am really keen on, with hints of psych in the mix. The sing along melody stays with me long after the song fades away, the mark of a great tune. “Antarctica” is a stunning, minor key masterpiece and I love how the vocals are layered. 

“Blue Field” is crying out to be a staple on modern radio stations in a perfect world, but then reality bites hard. A truly sublime pop tune. “Are You Numb?” swells with buzzing synths, metronomic percussion, and a pretty melody. “Fall Feeling” features Bobby Wratten (Field Mice, Trembling Blue Stars) on guest vocals, and its simpler construct works well with his introspective vocals. “Laura Palmer” is the first single, and I like its C86 cadence. In my mind, I see shadow figures dipping and weaving on the dance floor as this tune unwinds. Nice! “What You’re Asking For” is atmospheric dream pop of the first order, and has all the earmarks of another hit. Truly stunning work from this California group, and highly recommended by this writer!

09 October 2017

Mystery Boxes and More! The Joy of Supporting The Chills Film’s Kickstarter by Jenny Andreotti.

Mystery Boxes and More!: The Joy of Supporting The Chills Film’s Kickstarter:
By: Jenny Andreotti of Fawns of Love

I like many was first exposed to The Chills through their “Pink Frost” video. Being confronted with a gorgeous blue-eyed boy walking through nature while seductively whispering a song about the mysterious death of a lover was impossible to resist. As I dug deeper I discovered parallels between my own life and Martin Phillipps that were hard to ignore, and only deepened my respect for his talent. For example, “I Love my Leather Jacket” was penned about the death of drummer and friend Martyn Bull from Leukemia (I lost my beautiful soft-spoken brother from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when he was twenty-four and I was fourteen). Phillipps has also been outspoken about his battle with Hepatitis C which would have ended his life if it were not for the advancement of the drug Harvoni.

Furthermore, Phillipps has also been open about his struggle with depression which in turn encouraged me to be more open about my own struggle (losing another sibling to suicide, and watching other family members struggle with cancer and other illnesses has left me with an overwhelming fear of cancer and guilt that I have made it into my thirties which is a thing my brother did not get to do). Even though I do not know Martin Phillipps I credit him with giving me the ability to articulate my own inner demons.

That is why I feel so passionate about funding and encouraging others to fund the Kickstarter campaign that will give The Chills Film enough funding to complete their documentary on Martin Phillipps. That he is influential is undeniable, every indie, dreampop, and shoegaze band from the 1980s and beyond owes Phillipps a king’s ransom (my own band included, I am still trying to perfect that sexy loud whisper that is so characteristic of Phillipps’ vocal style). However, Phillipps’ story goes beyond being an indie cult figure, he has achieved what few artists have: raw honesty. By supporting this project, we support the beauty of human connection and the struggles we all face. So, head over to their Kickstarter page as many cool incentives await (I went for the “Mystery Box,” and the sixteen-year-old in me that lacks composure cannot wait to get a box from the dreamy Martin Phillipps)!

Gaussian Surfgaze: An Interview with Tara Milch of Pastel Felt.

Album art by Isa Beniston

Los Angeles trio Pastel Felt serves as vehicle for the songs of vocalist and guitarist Tara Milch. Alex Edgeworth of Bed Bits provides bass, while Evelyn Quijas, formerly of Pregnant, plays drums. The project’s debut full-length, Charming Lait, has been released on cassette by Lolipop and is available digitally on Bandcamp.

Pastel Felt’s sound melds elements of shoegaze, dream pop, surf, vintage girl group, post-punk, and even a touch of krautrock. Such blended territory has been worked by numerous projects in recent years; close points of reference for Pastel Felt would include, for instance, La Luz and Las Robertas. Like these peers, Pastel Felt slathers this mélange of influences in reverb while making adept use of fuzz—not to mention the lush flanger wash on Lait’s lead track, “Take It Out on Me”—and lo fi aesthetics. Somehow the resultant sound is nonetheless consistent and distinctive: set the tape rolling, and Pastel Felt immediately asserts its own identity. The dreamy haze that envelops the eight tracks of Pastel Felt’s debut is somehow very much of their own brand.

The band’s own apt self-classification is "groovy-mournful surfgaze." Their Facebook and Bandcamp pages additionally offer up the descriptor “Gaussian-blurred”, after Gaussian blur, a smoothing used in image processing that washes over the image, creating an effect resembling that of viewing something through a translucent pane. Here is a wonderful visual metaphor for the way sound is sculpted in shoegaze and dream pop. Such an analogy comes as no surprise when one knows that all three members of Pastel Felt are dedicated visual artists as well as musicians. (Check out Tara’s stuff here and Evelyn’s here.)

Attractive melodies and a gift for pop songcraft are evident throughout Charming Lait. While there’s a sweetness and charm to the band’s sound, minor chords and keys predominate; a cavernous sadness underlies the entire album even as moods and tempos vary.

The project, however, is hardly humorless. Check out, for instance, the video for “Take It Out on Me” (below), in which ancillary band member Jonny Kosmo takes the ride of his life. And last year, the band used a photo of an unidentified rear end for promotional purposes. More subtly, the album title plays on Tara's last name, Milch, German for "milk", "lait" in French.

Perhaps Charming Lait’s most outstanding feature is the gorgeously layered, reverb-shrouded vocal sound (definitely worth a few listens with a good pair of headphones). This aspect of the record utterly entrances even though the vocal tracks are somewhat back in the mix as per much shoegaze and dream pop. Easy intelligibility on the part of the lyrics is sometimes sacrificed to the lo-fi ethereality of the overall vocal sound, but the texture and feeling achieved is worth it.

04 October 2017

TONIGHT! WTSH airs on DKFM. Stream it live @ 10pm EDT/9pm CDT.

Tonight we have an exclusive premiere of The Daysleepers' brand new single (!!!) plus tunes by Fever Dream, Infinity Girl, Airiel, The Morelings, Gleemer, Softer Still, See Through Dresses, DEAFCULT, Pencey Sloe, Tús Nua, Leones, COLOUR OF SPRING + MORE! 

Stream it live 
10pm EDT/9pm CDT/7pm PDT 
Repeats 12 hours later

Stay tuned in for Muso Asia 1 hour after WTSH ends!

02 October 2017

THIS WEEK ON WTSH: Exclusive Track Premiere | The Daysleepers - Sundiver.

This Wednesday night on DKFM, When The Sun Hits will be exclusively premiering a brand new song by The Daysleepers, entitled "Sundiver". "Sundiver" is the second single taken from the band's forthcoming and long-awaited Creation LP, which will be out next year. Don't miss this!

Stream it live
THIS Wednesday, October 4th
10pm EDT | 9pm CDT | 7pm PDT

REVIEW: Houseplants | Houseplants EP by Edward Charlton.

Growing, budding, blossoming, sprouting and flowering. These words describe the feeling Michigan duo Houseplants, Victoria and Matt—for an added bit of mystery, no last names given—aim to achieve on their self-titled debut EP, out digitally and on cassette. With a mint green cover masking the image of an arboretum and sprawls of reverb and wisps of melody outstretched like vines, the band succeed entirely.

While this writer had never previously considered the connection between botany and dream pop, the pairing does certainly make sense. From Lilys’ 1992 song about black orchids to The Death of Pop’s more recent stunner “Gardens”, there’s always been something mystical and alluring about the endless passage of time that flora can represent in connection to billowing guitar effects atop twisting and contemplative song structures.

The first track, “Bloom in View”, opens with a clean guitar riff that gives way to a cloudy burst of textures and Victoria’s pleading vocals. The taught drumming and steady basslines lend the song a danceable indie pop feeling that cuts through the haze nicely and sets the tone for the EP.

Lead single “Honey Garden” more fully introduces Matt’s singing, which evokes the same yearning and plaintive sensuality as Kip Berman’s best moments. The guitars, at times resembling the synthetic, keyboard-like tones of Russia’s Pinkshinyultrablast, pirouette about the arrangements with a measured pastel grace.

“New Daze” picks up the tempo and also further highlights one one of the choices that makes Houseplants such a special release. A predictable and proven tactic for a duo would be to use a drum machine, which could distract from the soul of the songs. Instead, thankfully, live analog drums bring a refreshing subtlety and technicality to the band that breathes as much depth into the production as any reverb pedal.

“Hikari” employs a more ambient approach to a wandering and enraptured ballad that sets itself apart from the rest of the set, widening the range of the EP as a whole. The feeling of isolation present in the song recalls eighties new wave classics; it’s easy to imagine a bit of the track being plucked by a clever filmmaker for use in an establishing shot.

Closer “Midnight Run” harkens back to the earlier tracks by bringing the set to resolution with the snappy hi-hat and snare work that runs through most of the EP.
Houseplants works as an excellent introduction to the band and establishes the hallmarks of their style and mood with a great set of songs that are awesomely produced. Most importantly, this release manages to nail the truest pleasure of listening to a debut: fans get to sit back and enjoy the real excitement—watching something grow.

Buy the EP through Bandcamp or directly from Yellow K Records.

Edward Charlton provides guitar and vocals for WTSH-beloved Portland trio Lubec and wrote regularly for Jay Breitling’s late, great Clicky Clicky Music Blog (which still, thankfully, has an active Facebook presence). This review is Edward’s first appearance on When the Sun Hits.