Tag Archives: Shoegaze

Eyes on the Floor: A Shoegaze Compilation (Part Two)

[Featuring Yuck, Pink Mist, Sloan, Slowdive, Ivansxtc and Music for Headphones.]

And we’re back. See also: Part One, also known as the “Noisier Half,” (but not officially) as this second half will have some noisy parts as well. (But not quite as many as the first half. If this were a DJ set [please say you’ll pretend it is], this would be the end of the night shift to downtempo tracks, warmer sounds and the excruciating realization that the fucking sun is up already???!!! Shit…)

Yuck – Rubber.mp3

If you haven’t a.) listened to Yuck and b.) lived through the college rock heyday of the late-80s/early-90s, then all I can say is I feel for you, man. (Or as the case may be, woman. Or just “dude.”) Yuck echo the altrock past without wallowing in nostalgia or simply aping their predecessors. This is full-bodied guitar rock, sans post-grunge pretension, sans pre-grunge cock-waving and sans the last vestiges of baggy Mancunian rock that seemed to drag its multicolored ass all the way up into the mid-nineties for no real reason other than to carry the dying hopes of the last A&R men on the bandwagon.

The guitar is front and center but not confrontational. The vocals take a schizophrenic approach, sometimes peeking over the top of the noise wall, other times allowing themselves to be dragged down by the sonic undertow. Tightrope walking on the delicate edge between noise and melody, Yuck channel everything you loved about early-nineties indie rock (and by “you,” I probably mean “me,” but play along) into a roiling storm of Sonic Youth-damaged chords and Jesus and Mary Chain-trademarked feedback. While Yuck may not wallow in nostalgia, feel free to do so yourself. (Most likely meaning “myself.”)

Pink Mist – Touchdown Kid.mp3

Some of you may recall Pink Mist from a rare period of prolificness over at the Other Blog (specifically, the Top 50 Tracks of 2010 feature). There’s not a ton of Hawaiian bands cranking out superb, shoegaze-esque rock. (Off the top of my head, I can think of only one: Pink Mist.) But crank out superb shoegaze they do. And Touchdown Kid is one of their best.

The first 45 seconds are a bit of a dodge, with sparse instrumentation delivering something edging towards the always-oxymoronic “acoustic rock.” But then the guitars kick in, reminding you that prime tropical real estate be damned, Pink Mist is here to make a bit of thunderous noise. It’s a melodic blare that encompasses the bleak lyrics (She gives me nothing for nothing), before tailing off into a quiet coda just past the last part of the chorus (I don’t know what is right anymore/Probably just go home and sleep on the floor). 2-1/2 minutes of quiet (and not so quiet) musical bliss. A concise charmer wearing its broken heart on its sleeve.

(Additional fun: while Pink Mist sounds like a short-lived Sprite flavor, its actual definition is markedly better/worse.)

Music for Headphones – Ich Bin Zang.mp3

They ain’t lying. While the right pair of finely appointed and nearly-justifiably expensive speakers (“Tell me you did NOT just set your drink on my Kilpsch.”) would no doubt give this track the ride of its young life, it really needs the opportunity to crawl entirely inside your skull in order to serve its purpose. Music for Headphones obviously know how to craft soundscapes and mini-opuses that pile layers on layers and sprawl casually across your frontal lobe with all the confidence of the slick con man who’s currently banging your sister young man who’s obviously playing a “long game” that should culminate in making her an honest woman.

There’s some Krautrocking going on amidst all the shoegazing, but MFH keeps things moving along as much as music containing both these elements can reasonably be expected to “move along.” (Yeah! Get off its back already! Can’t it just be itself for awhile?!?) Surprisingly defensive music writing aside, Ich Bin Zang stands on its own merits, among which include a.) some refreshing and airy vocals, b.) a propulsive Kraftwerkian bass/synth line, c.) a bit of organ (always welcome), d.) a rather lovely drop and build around the 5 minute mark, which gives the listener a head fake before heading into e.) a bit of a relaxing coda occasionally interrupted by scorching (but brief) blasts of guitar.

Ivansxtc – Yesterday.mp3

Copypasted  from here. My old post will have to do as nothing new has surfaced on who is behind Ivansxtc.

I may overuse “gorgeous” but that’s exactly what this is. Ivansxtc whips up a sonic daydream out of indescribable longing buoyed by repeatedly cresting waves of guitar crush and minor keys. Bears a solid resemblance to Peter Murphy taking My Bloody Valentine for a quick spin through the darker corners of 4AD’s catalog. Apparently, Ivan cuts his product with tears of quiet desperation.

Can’t be said much better than that, but let’s go ahead and throw some more references and superlatives in the general direction of this faceless, nameless entity.

Yesterday is the kind of track that a million bands with a million effects pedals would give their original drummer to be able to crank out. Yesterday is the kind of track that makes all other songs named Yesterday sound like the stuff cranked out by Open Mic Night contestants who couldn’t make it past the first round. This INCLUDES the Beatles, the epitome of songwriting, rockandroll, etc. according to millions of Beatles fans. I, for one, will be stuffing this track in my ear repeatedly, rather than listen to the tepid balladry of four British moptops, of whom half are dead and the other half are a.) self-righteously annoying (vegan edition) and b.) self-righteously annoying (no one ever took me seriously edition). I encourage you to do the same.

Sloan – What’s There To Decide?.mp3

After all the carefully controlled mayhem of Part One (and parts of Part Two), it’s time to sit back and let the waves of sound gently wash over our body like the tide curling over a corpse left too close the shoreline. Or feel free to imagine something more pleasant, like a kitten laying on a warm blanket in the sun, lazily looking over at the corpse of its owner and wondering at what point it can move on from grieving the lack of food in its bowl and start eating the body lying awkwardly on the floor.

This track is from Sloan’s debut, which appeared roughly a lifetime ago (1992, to be exact), the product of some inventive Nova Scotians who went on to do bigger and better things, drawing comparisons to the Beatles and such as well as forming one of the most well-behaved and fiercely loyal fanbases in music history. But this is from Sloan’s audacious first album, which featured several shoegazey/indie rocking tracks led by cheerful rushes of distorted guitar and some rather amazing harmonizing. While probably not the saddest song recorded (perhaps due to the band members’ aversion to mid-career suicide), it is still one of the saddest songs ever recorded by Nova Scotians.

Easy to sing along with and filled with inviting tones that offset the at-arm’s-length detachment of the lyrics. Dying on the inside is never pretty but it sure makes for some achingly beautiful music.

Slowdive – Dagger.mp3

You know that feeling that comes from knowing you’ll keep hurting someone as long as you’re with them? Not the much more fun “I’m bad for you, but in a good way” feeling that leads to amusing misadventures like having a quickie in the broom closet at church or renting a convertible and going on a cross-country killing spree. None of that. This would be the feeling that expresses itself more quietly, through long painful silences punctuated by slammed doors, truncated late night phone calls and, every once in awhile, a suicide-homicide.

Slowdive know that feeling (the second one) and have expressed it in a very spacious but restrained way, allowing the vocals to rise to meet the instrumentation. It’s all aches and pains of the heart/soul variety, impossible to precisely locate, but overwhelmingly present all the same. The singer implicates himself over and over (“And me, I am your dagger/You know I am your wound“) but is unable to change a thing, because That’s Just How These Things Go Sometimes. I’m bad for you and you’re worse for/because of me. I’d change everything if I could but I can’t because I can’t actually change anything. Mutually assured self-destruction makes for some very pretty music.

[For more “I hurt everything I love” music, see also: the afore-mentioned Sloan’s I Am the Cancer which I will what-the-fuck-why-not just go ahead and embed directly below, because that’s how the internet works, people. Show. Don’t tell.]

Follow the link below for the entire Eyes on the Floor set contained in one zip file. In addition to some COMPLETELY OBJECTIVELY AWESOME cover art, you’ll find three (3) bonus tracks appended. [Mogwai’s spacious remix of Yuck’s Rubber, a more “plugged-in” version of Slowdive’s Dagger and, because you just can’t spell “shoegaze” without My Bloody Valentine, their cover of Wire’s Map Ref 41°N 93°W)

Eyes on the Floor




Filed under Rock

Eyes on the Floor: A Shoegaze Compilation (Part One)

[Featuring the Haiduks, BrthCtrl, Wood Owls, Weekend, TÅNK and Stellarium.]

Shoegaze is the genre that never really went away. The original scene got stuck in a recursive loop while the rest of alternative rock turned into something completely unrecognizable, populated by fitted ballcap-wearing aggressors with a tendency to abusive the dynamic shifts when not abusing rhyming dictionaries. As grunge rose, fell and was replaced by a succession of increasingly dull roars, shoegaze went into hibernation.

Now that all that unpleasantness is behind us, shoegaze (along with most of the 80s) has stepped back out into the sunlight, even if only metaphorically, as darkened venues are preferable to the harsh glare of unshielded UV rays when it comes to making layered noise. And what better way to celebrate this resurgence than a handpicked compilation of shoegazer tracks, curated by your host with no consideration given to whether these bands even claim the genre as their own or the fact that this “brand-new” resurgence has actually been going on for years.

Without further underselling, here’s the inaugural edition of Miscellaneous Themed Compilations, thrust upon you by your favorite underproductive music blog, Minor Scratches. Keep in mind that this is a 2-part post, and while there won’t be a quiz at the end, there will be door prizes. (Which include, and are limited to, a zip or rar of all the tracks and some handmade cover art.)

Haiduks – Use Up My Time.mp3

This must be what it sounds like in Kevin Shields’ head. All. The. Time. While otherwise normal people (who have never helmed a seminal band whose career culminated in a masterpiece (Loveless) that simultaneously set the bar unreachably high and devoured an entire label) would hear something tunefully fuzzy and a bit askew (like say, Sloan’s Lemonzinger), Kevin Shields, here embodied by the Haiduks, hears looped guitar chords suffering from intense vertigo.

In a word: askew. But pleasurably so. Disorienting but engaging, like taking a ride on a sonic Tilt-a-Whirl in need of repairs but otherwise not life-threatening. Or firing up a worn-out belt drive turntable, only with guitars and such.

BrthCtrl – Hiroshima.mp3

As long as our kilter is still a bit off, let’s head into something else delightfully noisy and prone to lurching around like Grandpa in search of some more MD 20/20. This track is so extremely rare that even Writer Mike himself has probably never heard it and I’m pretty sure he’s heard everything that was recorded between 1930 and earlier this afternoon.

BrthCtrl is the (mostly) unrealized, unreleased side project of home crowd favorite rraaiillss, itself a rather Jesus & Mary Chain-y, shoegazey effort. (Some day I’ll have to put together a list of “home crowd favorites” in some sort of order. And then maybe I can rotate them periodically, giving them each a shot as “Blog Mascot,” a title that comes with no prize money or additional accolades. It does, however, come with a fiercely loyal blogger whose lack of frequent updates tends to undermine the positive aspects of having such a blogger in your pocket.)

Unrealized or not, BrthCtrl rocketlurches from the gates with a monumental guitar swoon that seems on the verge of collapse any number of times, pitched to and fro like the drunken love child of MBV’s Only Shallow and Nirvana’s Radio Friendly Unit Shifter before the drums kick in and push it towards MBV’s Soon and most of JAMC’s Honey’s Dead. In other words, great stuff delivered guilelessly by a master craftsman and exclusive as fuck to boot.

Wood Owls – Breathless.mp3

Ah, this is nice. A refreshing blast of blasting. Well, in all honesty, it’s probably not “nice” but it certainly is bracing. In order for it to be “nice,” your definition of “nice” would have to be as flexible as my definition of “shoegaze.” This verges on No Wave (No Gaze?) in its single-minded pursuit of noisy guitar anti-heroics.

If the Jesus & Mary Chain met My Bloody Valentine’s pre-Loveless EPs in your garage for a session that would result in your eviction from the Homeowners’ Association, it would sound like this. (But probably only after mastering. [If that even happened. This sounds like 1985 opened a wormhole and shoved this through. Right into your garage. Weird. Try not to drop anything useful in there…] Before any sort of ultra-rough mastering, it would probably sound like this [starting about 5:50]:

So… basically the Wood Owls sound like your Marshall stack invited all the amps it knew to a party in the local bomb shelter WITHOUT TELLING YOU and you only found out because the goddamn bay windows buzzed right the fuck out the frames and collapsed on the ground to the accompanying sound of your voicemail filling up with increasingly profane noise complaints.)

Weekend – Coma Summer.mp3

What’s that about a “life worth living?” Pish and of course Posh. Weekend have brought the noise and are shaking things loose from your skull, waking you up just to tell you that they’re going to sleep for a long, long time.

I awoke from a coma summer.

Sometimes life’s what you make of it and sometimes it’s the parts that pass you by that affect you the most. Let’s sleep it off. Good luck sleeping, though! Oh, sure. It starts quietly enough. The drums kick in and there’s not much more than forward motion for a short while. But then the feedback kicks in, riding alongside a guitar set to “squall” and the pace never lets up, belying the inactivity of the title, but by no means suggesting that Life Is Being Made. You’re going for a ride and Weekend’s in the driver’s seat. We may not end up anywhere but at least we’re moving, am I right?

The guitar heat raises prickly bands of sweat on the back of your neck, perfect for dirt collecting during summer in the city. The feedback arcs and dives but never completely goes away. Fever dream music for the masses.

TÅNK – Des Oeufs (Les Manifestants ont Lancés).mp3

French one-man-band Christophe Mevel (a.k.a. TÅNK) isn’t normally associated with the shoegazer genre per se, but given the liberties I’m willing to take when arguing from the ear of the beholder (and doing battle with a variety of incomplete metaphors), we’re finding him grouped here despite his more Krautrockian leanings. Sure, this track may edge closer to space than to the introverted gauze of The ‘Gaze, but the necessary signposts are there. Manipulated guitars straining at the leads, surging on the backs of a theoretical “shitload” of effects pedals. Drumwork that propels, underpins and otherwise sets the pace (and the controls) to the heart of the sun while the surrounding swirl renders the rhythm section’s best intentions worthless – an enveloping fog that makes directional sense completely theoretical and as least as accurate as the old guy at the gas station who reeks of distilled Aqua Net and a lifetime of regrets.

Still, you’ll feel a bit more thump than shoegazing is accustomed to, but don’t worry, we won’t suddenly be taking a left into Germany’s idea of what rock should sound like if it’s not being played by The Scorpions. Instead, we’ll take a pulsing meander into the spacier side of shoegaze, which is at least as enjoyable as it sounds. And as to what exactly a “pulsing meander” sounds like? Two options: a.) TÅNK and b.) someone reaching the end of their mental thesaurus.

Stellarium – Tomorrow’s Monday.mp3

This track is a bargain. Introspective and downcast in the front, pure sonic overdrive in the back, like a wallflower at the dance that springs to elbow-throwing life when the DJ throws MC5 on the turntables. Suddenly, caution is thrown to the wind like so many journals full of overwrought poetry onto the bonfire. Maybe it’s not a party in the true high school drunkfest sense of the word, but it is definitely a Happening.

Going from bruised to bruising about halfway through, Stellarium flex their tonal muscles, which is never just mindless bulk, but rather just “cut” and “ripped,” like an aural Brad Pitt in Fight Club (or an Iggy Pop anytime). [Speaking of which, there is something a tad bit Stooge-ish in the blown-out swagger out the second half of the track…] Lithe but strong enough to make you feel that punch for the next several weeks. The build is as important as the release, setting you up for a series of uppercuts by lulling you into dropping your guard.

That’s it for this session. Part Two is on the way, featuring some more hazy instrumentation and effects pedaling, as well as a (probably) welcome shift in tone and tempo. (I originally typed that in as “shit in tone and tempo” and was EXTREMELY tempted to leave it that way. Now that you’ve been inside my head for a moment, allow me to gesture vaguely at the exits here, here and here. Feel free to drop back in any time. The door is always open. Or missing completely…)




Filed under Rock