Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Music to fall in and out of love to.


Blisteringly loud guitars. Dreamy gossamer, half heard songs of love. Distortion. Lots of distortion. And reverb. And phase. And flange. And delay. Basically, anything involving effects —by effects pedals, guitar re-wiring, amplifier manipulation, or studio experimentation— so all consuming that individual instruments blend into giant, glowing clouds of thick, foggy tonality. Like alt-rock smothered in fog, or ambiance rife with tension.

The term 'Shoegaze' was said to have been first coined by Andy Ross who ran 'Food Records' in the late 80's and early 90's when he described the band 'Moose' and dismissed the band "a bunch of shoegazers" in an interview. Doc Martin and salad enthusiast Steve Lamac picked up on this and soon after used it in an NME article and the rest as they say, is history. Initially a negative description, it was soon turned around into a more positive ideal and quickly, the pejorative 'Shoegazing' was embraced, and, through use, it was shortened to the two-syllable 'Shoegaze'. So now you know!
There was never any easy dictionary definition of what 'Shoegaze' actually is. There is no way of pinning it down as there are so many strands, electronica, indie, heavy rock can all said to share some of the base aesthetics of shoegaze, the obvious link is that they share a grander more ambitious make up. No angular, post-punk posturing, this is all big, curvaceous music in the grandest tradition!
The genre's founding forefathers were, in all likelihood, two bands who were not true shoegazers themselves. When Velvet Underground-influenced Scottish outfit the Jesus and Mary Chain released their legendary debut, Psychocandy, in 1985, they gave the world rock’n’roll songs swathed in reverb and distortion. Spacemen 3, a gospel-tinged garage-rock band founded on excessive drug-use, released their The Perfect Prescription set in 1987, furthering the cause of walls of sound built from guitar noise.
The other spiritual forebearer of the genre was the 4AD-centred ‘dream-pop’ scene (personified by bands like the Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil). Shoegazers took the detached, ambient, effects-draped, cooing-vocal style of dream-poppers and amped up the volume.
Though the name really only refers to it's initial, self-contained era, the spirit of shoegaze is still summoned every few years when some young sonic scientists, usually at University, stumble across the sacred mathematical formula of 'effects pedals + melody {LOUD guitars} 9% audible vocals = Shoegaze'.
Kevin Shields of shoegaze pin-ups My Bloody Valentine, famously described his band as having a 'fluff on the needle' sound. And, sure enough, My Bloody Valentine used effects-pedals to build walls of opaque guitar sound, burying their songs under torrents of reverberated guitar noise. The effect was to make the noise the centre of it's musical universe, with vocals, bass, and drums all submerged under guitars nearly reduced to sine-waves.
Whilst you could get into pedantic, semantic discussions about the differences between dream-pop, space-rock, and shoegaze, there are very little misconceptions about shoegaze as a genre. True shoegaze bands are few, and they all hailed from pretty much the same time (1990) and place (Reading) and most of the bands, as well as the scene had died out, split up and called it a day by 1994.
Despite the tiny scale of the movement and the brevity of it the current ranks of shoegaze-influenced artists, (quite direly described in the press as 'nu-gaze') all appears to be alive and well in the modern world of the 'fluff on the needle' sound. My Bloody Valentine recently reformed, returning to the stage with new material in tow. Since they released Loveless in 1991, the Irish band have attained a legendary status — not least of all in Shields' inability to make a follow-up album — inspiring countless bands year in and year out.
The bands who drew from shoegaze are too numerous to mention, but some of the more notable staying-true-to-shoegaze acts like Seefeel, SchoolOf Seven Bells, Engineers, Bowery Electric, the Radio Dept, M83, Over the Atlantic, Asobi Seksu, Rumskib, and Sereena-Maneesh are all still making great music, the sale of 'Slowdive' t-shirts is at a 17 year high and peoples hair seems a lot messier than it's been for a while so I guess the whole thig is ticking along nicely thank you very much!


Download the 'Rob Da Bank & Friends Shoegaze Special' here.


1. My Bloody Valentine * Only Shallow
2. Japan Cakes * Touched (Ricardo Tobar Mix)
3. Ulrich Schnauss * A Letter From Home
4. Dinosaur Junior * Freak Scene
5. Slowdive * Catch The Breeze
6. Manual * Blue Skied An' Clear
7. Cocteau Twins * Cherry Coloured Funk (Seefeel Mix)
8. Chapterhouse * Pearl
9. Nathan Fake * The Sky Was Pink
10. Maps * To The Sky (M83 Mix)
11. Ariel * Sugar Crystals
12. Ride * Vapour Trail
13. Jesus & The Mary Chain * Just The Honey
14. Velvet Underground * I Heard Her Call My Name
15. Boards Of Canada * Zoetrope
16. M83 * Teen Angst
17. Lush * Sweetness & Light (Orange Squash Mix)
18. Pale Saints * Sight Of You
19. Engineers * 3 Fact Fader
20. School Of Seven Bells * My Cabal (Robin Guthrie Mix)
21. Spiritualized * If I Were With Her Now

Till next time.
Big love. Tourist. X

1 comment:

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