I don’t remember when we met, but I remember it felt like flying.
And like sinking.
I remember there were others who were like you.
(but none of them were you)
So, I always came back.
And I found something beautiful hidden in you every time.
7 years today.
Happy birthday, DiaSoS.
Not long till The Microdance‘s first full-length New Waves of Hope is out. I already know it’s excellent but you don’t so just take my totes unbiased word for it.
Out of the dozen or so tracks on the album, this one’s my favourite. That’s why they’ve decided to release it as a single.* It’s out tomorrow on Boxing Clever Records.
[*No, that’s not why]
Damn. It only took me a month to get that hook out of my head and now it’s wedged solidly in there again.
“This one is different.”
I don’t know what my Echodrone SPOC, Eugene Suh, was on about when he introduced Five to me with those words, helpfully hooking me up with a download of the album a month before its official release.
(I realise I’m writing this two months AFTER the official release)
The announcement that Echodrone were coming out with a new album had been the highlight of my new year, but now I watched my download of Five near completion with increasing apprehension as E’s words reverberated in my skull forcing me to confront the awful possibility…
What if it sounds nothing like them?
I’d last listened to Echodrone when they released their marvelous album of cover songs, Mixtape for Duckie, in 2013. Their version of ‘Cry Little Sister’ is still my go-to mantra whenever I’m beset by rage, angst, or any emotion at all. In these moments, it’s Meredith’s voice that I need to say to me “Thou shalt not kill.”
But that version of Echodrone no longer exists. Original drummer, Mark Tarlton, and vocalist, Meredith Gibbons, have since moved on, and their absence is probably behind Eugene’s conviction that this version of Echodrone is nothing like the last. On Five we meet Mike Funk, Jim Hrabak and Rachel Lopez.
“We found Jim through his solo project, Slack Armada,” says Eugene. “he’s really added an electronic element that we were striving to achieve on previous albums.”
He goes on: “Rachel added a new set of vocal and vocal harmony ideas. She’s very much influenced by Siouxsie and the Banshees. And Mike’s drumming is just so solid – he really shaped the rhythmic backbone of Five.”
I can’t narrate the romantic trepidation with which I pulled the shrink wrap off before gingerly placing it into my hi-fidelity system and pressing play, because the only thing remotely retro about the entire experience was Winamp.
An hour later, I was typing out my response to Eugene. “Don’t take this the wrong way…” I found myself saying, “but Five sounds exactly like an Echodrone album.”
Someone more keen on picking a fight may have pulled me up for accusing them of unoriginality. Eugene, however, was stoked! “I’m blown away,” he said, “Honestly, it’s an extremely difficult genre to work in. Many shoegaze bands seem to want to rehash the past, and many fans want their favourite shoegaze bands to rehash the past. We always hope that our music comes across as a unique entry in the shoegaze arena.”
Uniqueness is all well and good, but there’s not much that emerges from a vacuum, so you have to wonder: what influences have to be fused together to create that uniquely Echodroney sound?
“It’s funny – we always start an idea based on an influence. ‘Disparate Numbers’ used to be called ‘Boards of Canada’, ‘Glacial Place’ used to be called ‘I Paddy’ cause I found a cool arpeggiator program on my iPad and built the song around it. ‘Less Than Imaginary’ used to be called ‘Vampire Weekendy’ (?!?!?!)). But I think we end up throwing all our influences into a melting pot and it always ends up sounding like Echodrone!”
Not one to ask a question without an ulterior motive I gently steer the conversation towards the more than passing resemblance I find ‘NoiseBed’ bears to a somewhat popular MBV track.
Here’s how you ask a subtle question:
So, um, did you ever listen to Andy Weatherall‘s remix of ‘Soon’?
It’s Mike Funk who responds: “I love that Andy Weatherall remix! It’s so hypnotic and groovy. Even Kevin Shields got caught up in the rave culture of the early 90s. He had that one famous quote back then: ‘The only innovation in music is in house music and rap music.’ ‘Soon’ definitely reflects that. Andy’s production is so distinct that you can’t imagine hearing classic tracks by Primal Scream and Happy Mondays heard in any other way.
“I have a funny story about playing the ‘Soon’ remix as a college radio DJ – a fellow DJ walked into the station MCR while I was on the air and spinning that 12″ single and he said, ‘Your record’s skipping.’ It wasn’t, of course, but that’s what’s great about ‘Soon’- it’s so strong in its rhythm and repetition that it’s almost euphoric but still loud and heavy.”
My cunning plan has fallen flat. I am left with no choice but to resort to open and honest dialogue. I mention the similarity between the two tracks and:
“Never even connected the two songs before, but I can hear what you’re talking about with the Soon remix! Jim was targeting a Fuck Buttons vibe with all his electronics…’Soon’ didn’t even cross our minds!”
I swear I’m not imagining it:
Moving on. I wonder about ‘Disparate Numbers’ – the synth-loaded opener with a vibe so electro, it could easily pull off being my age.
“‘Disparate Numbers’ is our first political-type song. It’s about how government and economic policies have created this huge, ever-expanding divide between the rich and the poor. We continue to let our governments and federal reserve representatives run free, implementing policies that extract money from the poor and provide risk-free capital to the rich (their friends). In essence, we end up ‘swinging lower, orbiting slower’ until we exist in a completely separate reality from the upper-class.
“I remember being really affected by the photos of Hong Kong’s underground city. Within a few city blocks, you have high rise luxury apartments filled with the city’s wealthy elite (Rurik Jutting is a perfect example of that excess lifestyle) and right underneath all that wealth and excess, you have some of the poorest people living a completely different life. So the people inhabiting the underground city and the people inhabiting the high-rise apartments – they are essentially disparate numbers, completely separated by an accumulation of wealth that’s really only a series of electronic ones and zeros. Just electronic numbers in a bank account.”
It’s fan favourite ‘Octopussy’ that steals the show on Five, though, proving (again) that Echodrone know just what to do with a cover. As a band, they’ve always been capable of exhibiting a muted magnificence – a superpower they do not reveal as frequently as I’d like. The last time they let the immensity of their sound shine through was on their crushing rendition of ‘Cry Little Sister’ on Mixtape for Duckie before which they could have knocked the breath out of a sizeable percentage of the world’s population with ‘Under an Impressive Sky’ and a good sound system.
‘Octopussy’ is undoubtedly the gloriousest track on Five. It makes you wonder – does having a set format make Echodrone bolder? Looking at Mixtape for Duckie and Five, I’d hazard a ‘yes’, but this is the band that made the sonic trump card ‘Under an Impressive Sky.’ What could possibly stop them from doing it again?
See for yourself… Pick up Five from Saint Marie Records.
Who are they?
Where did they come from?
How did they do it?
An MBV cover to rival MBV?
It cannot be!
But it is:
This is for the ones didn’t overcome the odds
Still stacked against them.
For the ones who dropped out of school
And didn’t launch a startup.
For the ones who left a career
To follow a dream that didn’t want them.
For the ones who fought a family for a lover.
For the ones who gave up when the going got tough
And the ones who didn’t even try.
This is for the ones who don’t roll with the punches.
They’re built to bleed
But it’s all right.
If you feel like letting go.
Let’s be clear.
‘Hey’ is the greatest shoegaze track to emerge out of the 90s.
I would listen to ‘Hey’ before I listened to ‘Soon’ or ‘Alison’ or ‘Pearl’ or ‘Black Metallic.’
And Blind Mr. Jones are only the most exotic group to ever walk the earth.
Because Blind Mr. Jones are the only the only group I have ever known to have a flautist as a band member.
How many flautists could there possibly be in Marlow?
(filling in crosswords on park benches)
Shoegaze community, you have let me down.
Your tenacity is a delusion. Your loyalty is an illusion.
I’ve only been playing nothing else for 4 days.
Maybe don’t listen to anything else for a while.
The bandmance between Whirr and Nothing is legendary, and the friendly rivalry/imminent bloodshed between Whirr fans and Nothing fans maybe even more so. Hop over to either band’s page on last.fm and you’ll find comment after pointless comment fighting the interminable fight to answer the question that has haunted mankind for the last four months.
Guilty of Everything or Sway?
At AE, we pride ourselves on being a beacon of unwavering objectivity. If it’s emotionless appraisal you’re after, you’ve come to right place. Aglet Eaters never allows its opinions to be swayed by even the most dogged of majorities, least of all by a majority that erroneously believes Nothing’s Guilty of Everything is a better album than Whirr’s Sway. Such a majority is not only mistaken, but also partially deaf.
I say they are only ‘partially deaf’ because there is no doubt that Guilty of Everything is the second-strongest album to come out of 2014. Who can even count the number of babies that were conceived to the outro of ‘Bent Nail’? Who hasn’t abruptly deserted a significant other in favour of a life of solitary prayer and devotion to ‘Beat Around the Bush’? How many wars have we prevented by simply seguing from ‘Endlessly’ into ‘Somersault’?
But to say it is superior to Sway? Impossible! NOTHING is better than anything by Whirr.
(…OK I see what might have happened.)
Whirr aren’t receiving a whole lot of love at the moment, owing to their slightly abrasive online personas. You’re not supposed to mistreat your fans, apparently, but if you don’t, then how can you tell apart the ones who really, really, really, legitimately love you always and forever <3 <3 <3 ?
See, you couldn’t pay me to not listen to Whirr. You could try, though, if you’re the kind that enjoys a challenge. Whirr could run over my foot with a stretch Hummer and I would ignore the crushed appendage as well as the wanton destruction of the ozone layer and still limp loyally behind them. Whirr could sleep with my best friend and hold me responsible for their lapse in judgment and I would still love them more than my own useless life. Whirr could put out a restraining order against me and I would remain stolidly convinced that they’re just playing hard to get. Under pain of death, the absolute worst I can say about Whirr is that the first 15 seconds of ‘Swoon‘ are probably unnecessary.
Despite Sway not being Distressor, who wouldn’t give up the rest of their lives for a day with the 20 second bridge at the end of ‘Press’ (2:22 – 2:42)? Lovers have died waiting for each other on either side of war-torn borders with “I like the theme of you and me swaying slowly” on their lips. And the day Hope leaves you, her parting words are “weigh me down and cry”.
I’ve played Sway so often, even Whirr have told me to get a life.
It’s playing again.
Album of the year 2014.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Every online publication has its darlings. Drowned in Sound unfailingly raves about the National. The Quietus will never get over Swans. NME is still hung up on anything that sounds remotely like Oasis. And I remember my budding hatred for Pitchfork came into full bloom when they removed MBV from the #1 Spot on their “Top 100 Albums of the 90s” replacing Loveless with OK Computer (which, till then, had sat at the equally undeserved #2 position).
This is where I would usually launch into my rant about the hypocrisy of ‘independent’ music publications that are meant to serve as stalwarts of taste but instead end up catering to audience expectations, and their own set preferences, but let’s accept it – advertisers want eyeballs, not originality.
Me, I’m no innocent. The Microdance are Æ’s babies which is why I’m stoked that Alex is down to talk about their new album New Waves of Hope months before its official release.
It’s TMD’s very first LP – they’ve been a singles group so far and I’m a big fan of their before-they-were-famous stuff (‘Fucking Fucker’ is fucking phenomenal). However, given this, er, DYNAMIC era of music production and consumption we’re living in, why put an album out? What purpose does it serve? Does the end justify the means? Why are we even here?
Existential crises rule. OK, here we go:
Æ: FINALLY we have an album! Thank [higher power of choice] New Waves of Hope releases in 2015 because if not I’d have to make room for it in my best of 2014 list and I really don’t want to do that. How does it feel to have an actual long play album out and why did it take you so long to put one together?
Firstly, it feels great to have New Waves of Hope ready to go. I’m confident that this one will feature in your best of 2015! I’d say it’s ten years overdue – not for this band, but for me personally.
The short answer to your second question is: ADHD. It’s a term that’s being thrown around quite liberally at the moment to describe the cultural and artistic shifts of this generation – you know, instant gratification, the death of the album: what we’re calling the iPod shuffle generation. Referring to that cultural change – which has as much to do with new business models as it does the people buying into it – as ADHD is a lazy misnomer. I’ve lived my whole adult life with no executive function. It’s a pretty pernicious and insidious disorder and my diagnosis this year certainly explained to me why I have been functioning at something like 5% of my capacity in every element of my life, including music.
Anyway, we got it done and I really hope that it will open the floodgates for this band to be as prolific in releasing material as I am in writing it. This is not in any way a reflection of my band-mates – it’s not their fault I never finished and sent them the 1,200 song ideas I’ve had in the last three years. They are fucking fantastic – they just have to deal with this dawdling idiot!
Æ: Is there really a point to putting out an album at all? Why not just stick to EPs and single tracks? Don’t get me wrong – I think full albums are manna from heaven, but who else does?
That’s a tough one for me to answer because I think I’d need to divorce my romantic idealism from the cold truth. New Waves of Hope is 70 minutes long; there is no dip in quality anywhere – we made damn sure that it’s A* TMD throughout. So, in theory, it does its job for those people who still want to be immersed taking in an opus and I’m happy about that. I also truly believe that we’ve made an album of the sort that not many bands out there are even capable of making – notwithstanding whether or not they would choose to, whether their label thought it a good idea etc. So, given that it’s ten years late, given that it’s 14 songs from a pool of hundreds, and given that we would want our favourite bands to release something as expansive as this, we’ve justified it.
The album format also gave us the opportunity to go a bit deeper with a particular sound. We were very conscious that it should be a cohesive work – just because we think albums work best that way – so it allowed us to explore and mine that territory as deeply as we could. What we have lined up next could be material that we didn’t feel was congruous. We’ll probably put out a gothy, new wave, shoegaze type EP within 9 months of the album’s release. I’m also super keen to go heavier – like crushingly heavy! (zomg a Jesu version of Devour! – ed)
The cold truth may be that no one gives a shit! But at least Gavin, our amazing producer Frankie Siragusa (who played a huge part in guiding the album’s vision) and I can say that were integrious and didn’t pander to some low common denominator even if we were being somewhat quixotic!
Æ: I don’t blog as much anymore, because I’ve got a job now and it leaves me with not much time to put my thoughts together. Do you feel the luxury of time to introspect or come up with ideas is where creativity comes from or am I just being a slacker who should get off my bum and go write something amazing?
Ha ha! Maybe a bit of both. I have no idea how I create – none whatsoever! I’m amazed that people think I’m a productive guy because it feels like I’m doing nothing 95% of the time; especially during the depressive periods since my diagnosis. I think what actually happens is that those flashes of inspiration and what becomes of them are somewhat out of your control on a cognisant level. That’s not to say that we are not responsible for them – more that we are a conduit for an energy that we did not create consciously. I know people who allot time to write – as in ‘I’ll sit down to write my album from 3-6pm every day’. That’s alien to me. Maybe you’re the same. Don’t think about it too much!
Æ: What makes you WANT to make music every day? Are there days where you feel like going ‘fuck it, this is pointless, no one cares”? (aka: what are the best and worst things about the music industry today?)
I don’t want to make band music every day. If it wasn’t for Gavin (the longest serving member of TMD besides me), I’d have gone solo a couple of years ago because being in a band this good in London in 2014 is a thankless task. There is no reward commensurate to our quality. There is nothing good about the music industry these days. People can argue that there is more opportunity and freedom for emerging artists. That is bullshit. The open market that is the internet has completely removed any filtering system and so we’re competing with 100,000 bedroom artists for a write up in a blog that has 50 readers [gee, thanks – ed]. In the old days, you listened to what was played on 120 minutes because there was no other means for bands to reach you – there was a quality filter that at the very least ensured that what you heard what fit for public consumption. I’ve also noticed that the model is now predicated on giving people what they expect; whereas there was a time when it was about spirit – the spirit and life of something new.
Æ: I have asked you nothing at all about New Waves of Hope. What are more than one and less than five things you feel everyone should know about the album?
1: It’s a grower not a shower. It has depth and that will lend itself to longevity.
2:It features Nicole Fiorentino (Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt, The Cold & Lovely) on backing vocals and Eric Gardner (Morrissey, Tom Morello, Tegan & Sara, Cyprus Hill, Moby, Iggy Pop) on drums.
3: A digital download will cost you less than a round of beers at the pub and will lead to you owning an emotionally edifying work of art that will live under your skin like an internal comfort blanket for the rest of your life.
Up until the album’s release, I find I can afford to buy a pint AND invest in a TMD track without burning a hole in my pocket. Who knew? ‘Making Plans for the End’ off New Waves of Hope is up for purchase over at Boxing Clever Records. Click here to pick it up.
Les critiques de Sway le déclarent une abomination. Pitchfork l’a qualifié d’album « paralysé » dans sa critique incompréhensible et lui a donné 6,9 sur 10 (bien sûr, Pitchfork est lui-même un site web abominable – mais quand même…). Un autre site lui a donné 4 sur 10, disant, je cite, que « Les voix ressemblent plutôt à une murmure et on n’arrive pas à les comprendre. Sans ces voix, cet album transmettrait le même message. »
Evidemment, M. Smith n’a jamais écouté une note de shoegaze.
Moi, je n’ai eu besoin que de 30 secondes de ‘Press’ pour arriver à cette conclusion: nous n’avons pas eu – depuis Guilty of Everything par Nothing – une sortie si belle, si émouvante et si authentique. Comme son prédécesseur, Around, Sway reste fidèle à ses racines – un hommage respectueux aux origines du shoegaze. En même temps – comme dans toutes leurs créations – Whirr apporte son sens de l’actualité – le groupe ne vit pas dans le passé, mais l’amène avec lui, en l’intégrant dans une esthétique contemporaine.
Fidélité – Whirr est une manifestation du genre – de la ‘discorde’. C’est ça l’essence du shoegaze. Je suis sûre que les membres du groupe ne seraient pas d’accord avec moi, mais selon moi la contradiction est le cœur de ce type de musique. Les voix éthérées flottent au-dessus d’un bruit intolérable. Un groupe abrasif crée des chansons d’anges. Les journalistes/bloggeurs – ils n’arrivent pas à réconcilier les deux idées. Nous préférons une vie simple – composée de noir et de blanc. Le genre nous oblige à faire face à la réalité incongrue. Whirr – ils font la même chose.
C’est subjectif, la perception de la musique. Je l’accepte. Sauf que – non, il n’y a aucune doute que Whirr a sorti un album magnifique. Ce qui est ‘subjectif’ est l’interprétation de leurs bouffonneries sur Facebook. Le groupe – M. Basset, en particulier – ne respecte pas le ‘tact,’ et moi, je suis avec lui. Ça lui est égal. Pour Whirr, les fans ne servent à rien, et moi je suis ravie de cette vision. Je ne peux pas exprimer suffisamment mon respect pour des artistes qui créent l’art pour l’art et pas pour les gens. Et Whirr – Ils sont têtus, ils sont orgueilleux, et ils sont arrogants. Mais ils sont honnêtes et rien n’est important pour eux sinon la musique.
C’est ça – l’authenticité.