Æ: Aglet Eaters

Stay with me.

Posted in Track by R on May 18, 2015

Hell is made of people of leaving, of leaving people, and of being left behind.
(Such is life)

‘Ghost’ will bring you to your knees and to tears, but at least it won’t leave.

Hold me close
Stay with me

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Tears Run Rings – Distance (2010)

Posted in Album, Review by R on September 27, 2010

It started with ‘Mind The Wires’.

‘Mind the Wires is a song off Tears Run Rings’ first album. It is one of the most exquisitely understanding, most sympathetic songs I have ever had the privilege to hear. I am (unsurprisingly) not quite sure what they’re saying, and while I would like to know, I am quite happy in my lyrical ignorance thanks to a comforting Discernible Lyric Template that ensures the involuntary filler lyrics you insert can do no damage.

You do want to know, though. A template that looks like this:

“Mind the wires, let your love…

Slow down – slow down, be careful

A million stars…”

And also includes:

“Say goodbye…

… stay a while.”

leaves you craving the words you miss every time you listen.

Tears Run Rings don’t get enough credit. Even within shoegaze circles they are oft overlooked and perhaps the most unfairly ignored of all neo-gaze bands. This might be because they don’t appear to travel in the same incestuous musical circles* as several of the others appear to. But they are easily somewhere at the top of the pile in terms of expertise and expression. You can see their honesty manifest itself in their delicately vague song titles, the hazy abstractness obvious in such detached album names as Always, Sometimes, Seldom, Never and even more glaringly so in Distance… which is what I’m supposed to be talking about, by the way. Sorry, ‘Mind The Wires’ always distracts me from the task at hand.

‘Happiness 3’ is a lovely way to start Distance and is, in my humble but somewhat reliable opinion, better than its prequels. It is a stunning, twilit vocal waltz – two voices swirl in each others’ metaphorical arms melting into one another in the kind of blinkered love that leaves you oblivious to your surrounds. Lost in themselves, twisting elegantly into a dewy double helix.

‘Intertia’ is the song with the most personality on the album thanks to some rebellious drums that develop a mind of their own mid-verse and wander off  the set path for a few liberated seconds before snapping out of their reverie, gathering their bearings and reining themselves back in. And ‘Reunion’ is surprisingly psychedelic, radiating the echoes the Jesus and Mary Chain trademarked. The only song I find myself not such a fan of is the much hyped (by TRR standards, of course) offering, ‘Forgotten’. Don’t misunderstand me, ‘Forgotten’ is a great song. But I am left slightly cold by the jarring in-and-out-ros, the guitars screaming a little to harshly to follow the cradle set up by Happiness 3 and appearing out of place in the song itself.

I’m having some trouble adequately expressing how transcendent the title track is. ‘Distance’ the song is an absolute gem, with a melody and words tender enough to coax even the most ardent insomniac to, if not sleep, at the very least a state of out-of-body other-worldly suspension. “We are tired but we can’t go to sleep” – you couldn’t have asked for a more compassionate statement. Tears Run Rings say the words for you and then – “here I am” – say the words to you. You can feel them gently stroking your hair right up to the magnificently crashing close that unfailingly sends ripples through your bloodstream.

It’s quite obvious how much I am in love with this song isn’t it? It’s a seven minute long track and I listened to it five times in the course of writing the preceding paragraph. 35 minutes. I may as well have blinked.

‘Distance’ is followed by the unsettlingly sweet-sounding ‘Divided’. “I try to scream…” says a voice of icy, crystal honey that you know is incapable of such an unmelodious act – and this very thought is what makes the song so disquieting.

I’m quite happy with TRR’s relative elusiveness. It’s not just a matter of having a band you love all to yourself. It goes beyond the mere selfish protectiveness we tend to coat our favourite possessions with (though, no doubt, I am rather pleased with how much more mine this makes them). No, I am also in favour of this because it means there’s less pressure on them.  You know? As in, I’d imagine they’re their own strongest influence. Distance takes its time to unfurl. It’s unhurried and natural – untouched by expectations from peers or industry. Like its predecessor, it’s unadulterated.

[*I love how those incestuous circles are so reminiscent of the original ‘Scene That Celebrates Itself’ mentality. It’s like an involuntary homage to classic shoegaze.]

The Fauns – The Fauns (2010)

Posted in Album, Review by R on July 19, 2010

I think this album is psychic.

I’m usually all about maximum feasible objectivity when discussing an album, trying not to let what I feel get the better of me and instead aiming to express what I think the music is meant to sound like. However, in this case, I am writing for myself, because The Fauns‘ self-titled album can read minds.

I remember feeling a bit low when I first played it. It’s a bit of a risk exposing yourself to a new piece of music when you’re in a negative frame of mind. Actually, it’s a bit of a risk exposing the music to you, because it might wind up irreversibly tainted by your black mood and beautiful shoegaze doesn’t deserve that at all.

Then again, maybe that is precisely why I subjected the Fauns to me. Already familiar with their brand of blisspop, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when they sympathetically enveloped me in their shimmery fuzz, understanding and forgiving me the mistakes I’d made that had put me in this sticky, muggy mood.

It was easy enough, of course, to zone out and drift along with the current. Before long, however an arresting phrase wafted in and out of focus. “Calm down/It’s going to be all right” it said. An involuntary public frown – it had vanished so quickly, maybe I’d imagined it? No, there it was again. I looked down to see what this windswept song was called making a note calling ‘Road Meets The Sky’ the Psychic Song.

Two tracks later, it was re-tagged The First Psychic Song when ‘Come Around Again’ dropped the unsettlingly sympathetic line “stay calm/no harm/will come/to you.

And when I listened to the album again, it was re-re-tagged One Of The Psychic Songs. This was when the incredibly, overpoweringly, so-very-genuinely supportive ‘Understand’ caught my attention with the disguised profundity in the simple lyric “When hope is gone/I’ll understand” –

Yet how could the Fauns NOT understand? They’ve been there and beyond. They know what you’re feeling because they’ve felt the same and they helplessly, belatedly reach out to you with ‘Fragile’ – the only moment on the album they devote to their own desolation. ‘Fragile’ is beautiful in its precision – through limiting each line to a two-syllable mantra, it manages to convey everything about a single sad instant – right down to what time of day of the week it is. Juxtaposing a phrase like “perfect/moment” seamlessly with “fragile/…broken” it is filled with tragic splendour. It closes with the same false disaffection that launched it, murmuring with a fatal sort of dejection “heartbeat/slowing” and finally “inside/broken.

Like I said, I usually strive to be neutral. But this album is a shape-shifting empath, therefore I can only offer you an interpretation of what it says to me. Hopefully, you hear what I do, in which case… phew – objectivity prevails.

Me You Us Them – Post-Data (2010)

Posted in Album, Review by Talha on June 22, 2010

In all my shoegazing discoveries this year, none has satisfied me to such an extent as Me You Us Them‘s debut LP has. This album sounds NEW from the first track in, and you had better get your rating finger ready for some serious 5-star clicking. Order in a neck brace as well, the riffs and melodies have a hook enough to get your head bobbing through-out the record till its done.

My first impression of Post-Data had me preparing myself for post-punk onslaught, but as I listened to the album over and over, the dense chords lying in the back made their way up and I was introduced to the wall of sound reminiscent of I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness‘ textural driving buildups. There’s enough swerve in the guitars to fill up your brain’s drone capacitors only to be complimented by the driving grooves that keep your feet busy for, say, about the length of the entire album?

The album’s only just started and already “Any Time’ has you hooked – full of enough key elements to keep the gazer in you more than satisfied. Elastic chords suspending you from the pivot point of the beat while the bass provides all the tension. Each track that follows builds up your appetite for the next. There’s a distinct two chord swerved out riff which I find myself holding on to as a bookmark for each track.

The track that instantaneously stands out is “Drugs’ – it takes you up in with the atmospheric sound wash in the back only to drive you to the edge of a cliff where you hear the words “chin up child, don’t give up”, and it just keeps getting higher from there on. “iQuit’ takes the role of building up to the self titled track, and here’s something interesting – the groove hasn’t let go of you and we’re about 7 tracks down.

It’s this constant driving force in their sound that keeps pushing you further and further still, till you activate your drift and you’re caught in the current . Post-Data transitions from light to dark as you progress from the first track on to the last, but it doesn’t leave you in the shadows once you’re done cruising your way to the end. It only deprives you of their sound when it closes and there really is nothing much you can do but rewind and find yourself stuck in this endless circle of Me You Us Them.

The graphic designer in me really likes the whole retro-modern album art. The hand made silk screened cover is made to look like an old floppy disk, with the pixelation on the record visible through the negative spaces. It’s a perfect depiction of nostalgia and innovation, which is pretty much the sound this band has managed to create. I’ve checked on all the boxes on my shoegaze list and given 5 stars for each track… EACH TRACK! Post-Data is a compilation of all your favorite songs that you haven’t heard yet. I’ve only managed to catch a few videos off of youtube and I can clearly see them rocking out major shows pretty soon in the future! Go ahead check them out yourself… http://meyouusthem.com/

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Soundpool – Mirrors In Your Eyes (2010)

Posted in Album, Review by R on June 2, 2010

I’ve had the new Soundpool record on repeat for most of the past week. At the start of the year I had no idea they were even planning on releasing an LP, so when Mirrors in your Eyes dropped, I was pleasantly surprised since I’d already been charmed senseless by On High and Dichotomies and Dreamland.

Listening to it, I think of the music critic cliché often used to describe a pleasing follow-up attempt by a band: ‘mature’. Bands ‘mature’, they develop a more ‘mature’ sound and create an album more ‘mature’ than its predecessors.

What does that even mean?

Is a band mature when it creates an album with an expertly engineered playlist crafted to ensure the songs seamlessly flow into each other like semi-set jelly? Surely not – they must need to be able to skilfully include some sort of distinction amongst the tracks – they must be able to demonstrate an ability to work with a myriad of styles and variations without faltering or appearing to be paddling hopelessly out of their depth.

I hadn’t pondered the meaning of that single word when used in the context of writing about records till I listened to Mirrors in your Eyes. I listened and then I listened again. And the I listened a few more times because I could hear something in it. I could hear maturity.

It’s easy enough to be a well-loved shoegaze band – the core sound structures of the genre are so inherently beautiful that even the most derivative ensembles can produce pieces of sheer magic. Piggybacking on influences is not a concern, it is usually welcomed and warmly rewarded. The more you manage to sound like Slowdive, the more we will love you.

Only Soundpool aren’t doing that. Anymore. They’ve abandoned the camouflage of their last albums and thrown themselves into gazer territory that I have never seen charted before:

Discogaze.

Yep, straight of the bat we’re hit hard on the head with a spinning mirrorball that establishes the album as one TO BE SHARED. This is not introspective music you beg for comfort as you to curl up in a dark corner of your barely-lit room when you’re going through one of your emo phases. This is music you haphazardly pogo stick to in the middle of a barely-lit club while psychedelic light stencils flash erratically over you and your posse.

I’d like to make an exception for ‘Makes No Sense’, however. The polish of production has significantly glossed up the version we were so far familiar with. This is a song I want to keep to myself, all to myself and not share with anyone. I love the early 90s college mixtape feel of it. I love the blissfully fuzzed out vocals. I love the guitar that crashes over Kim’s voice in the second verse – her completely incomprehensible words remaining disaffectedly stoic despite the wonderfully rude interruption. And I love the slippery hook that lasts the duration of the song manifesting itself in every facet of the song, repeating itself over and over and like some sort of white powder – sugar, salt or cocaine – leaving you craving more, leaving you positively aching to sing along, but helpless to do anything more than hit ‘repeat’.

It’s followed by a sweet little number that calls itself ‘Sparkle in the Dark’ (can’t have a gazer album without a word like ‘sparkle’ in one of the tracks). It’s the perfect comedown after its brain-blending predecessor – a thoughtfully chosen dessert wine that drops you lightly back onto the Studio 54-y dancefloor. And that’s where you remain as your night draws on. Even a song like ‘I’m So Tired’ leaves you swaying lazily, head tossed back, as you allow your body to recharge.

Incredibly comforting, ‘That Sunny Day’ propels itself along on the wheels of a semi-distant fade in/out bada-bahbah-bah-BAH hook. They must have sensed your second wind because final tracks and possible cousins ‘Shelter’ and ‘Listen’ swoop in at just the right moment offering your weary but still mobile self exceptionally shimmery melodies with beats perfectly timed to ensure you remain happily mobile and conveniently ignorant of how they’re winding you down at the end of the night.

No, no – no mopey faces. The album’s over, but remember that ‘repeat’ button you have at your disposal. I’m using mine to drown in ‘Makes No Sense’ again, but feel free to release the prismatic evening as many times as you like.

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Exit Calm – Exit Calm (2010)

Posted in Album, Review by R on May 29, 2010

The hype surrounding Club AC30’s newest offering had potential fans queued up before Exit Calm’s first full length had even released. Review after review drew enthusiastic comparisons to early Verve and these were indeed easily justified given the abundance of guitars soaked in Nick McCabe’s sweat, the several ‘Oh hey that sounds a lot like [insert Verve song circa 1992-93]’ moments evenly spread throughout the album and also the band’s own admission.

Gracefully steering the band away from dangerous xerox territory is our vocalist Nicky Smith who sounds nothing like Ashcroft. He is instead in possession of a set of vocal cords magnificently reminiscent of the charred voices that the American post-grunge era spawned and that so slyly prevent you from recognising the grainy cry that opens ‘We’re On Our Own’ – “I’m calling out to you/can you hear my voice/am I getting through?” as the soulmate of the heartwrenching plea Richard Ashcroft releases on ‘Starsail’ (“Hello, it’s me, it’s me, crying out are you  there?“) mingling it with a trifling ‘So Sister’ undercurrent (“So sister/you’re hearing how I missed her/but I don’t think that she’s hearing my call“).

A sandpaper voice against swampy guitars makes for a queer juxtaposition. It’s a hybrid difficult to wrap one’s mind around if you haven’t experienced it, yet given the sheer chronological correlation of what appear to be Exit Calm’s most obvious twentieth century references, one you’d imagine had already been done. Quirky or not, is it functional?

Certainly a worthy band-primer, the very first track ‘You’ve Got It All Wrong’ pulls it all together for the newbie listener. Hello layered guitars ripped off from the Vervegaze era and hello characteristically pained 90s alt-rock vox. ‘We’re On Our Own’ takes this and adds to it the prototypical isolation aesthetic of the hermitic little scene that celebrated itself, tossing out themes of solitude and willing exile – “I don’t need anyone/I’ll let you know when I need someone/to try to teach me to be alone/when I believe that we’re on our own.

Doubtlessly not the strongest track on the album, ‘Serenity’ is the most intentionally epic. It builds itself up from a hushed, somewhat restrained initial pensiveness before proceeding to intensify every aspect of its being, allowing the pent up frustration to take over, magnify itself and settle atop a relatively muted voice.

I’d like to take a break here to share with you guitarist Nick Mc… Rob Marshall’s words as they appeared in an interview with Sandman magazine explaining Nicky’s audition: “we didn’t even have a PA. He sang through a tiny guitar amp, what a voice, he sang over the top of all of us, it was unreal.” It’s this voice that almost effortlessly breaks through the potent guitar that would be quicksand for almost any other. ‘Serenity’ is a beautiful track and with its Eddie Veddery vocals could easily be a better song than anything Pearl Jam ever recorded. Unfortunately the rapt epiphany that is “You’re the reason why/I’m both lost and found” closes the song somewhat incompletely, leaving you wondering if the ‘you’ in question is responsible for much else. Surely it’s a positive thing, though, that the primary complaint here is that the song is not long enough, that the album ends too soon?

Back to that guitar – lest you get the wrong impression, it’s no one-trick pony and ‘Don’t Look Down’ proves that it has at least two avatars. It acts as a supplement to the song’s uplifting chorus “Don’t look down/you’re flying you should know now/you’ll ride it out” with by running its billowing chords through your hair and thus placing you unsupported at a liberating 30,000 foot altitude.

Brooding apology ‘Forgiveness’ is not as much a beseeching plea as it is a looming threat. “I’m sorry,” he mopes. “Forgive me” he says. “Forgive me,” he repeats. He reiterates the statement again and again and again and then it dawns on you – this is not a plea, it is an order. The warmer ‘With Angels’ is a splendidly shining example of being plucked right out of the seminalest of the 90s bands and by ‘seminal’ we’re talking 20,000 glazed eyes swaying hypnotically in unison. Look out for the three second snippet of ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ and the exceptionally unembarrassed A Storm in Heaven guitars.

As securely promising as the album is, Exit Calm face a very real threat. Behold this comment off the YouTubes posted beneath the ‘Hearts and Minds’ video:

Exit Calm are already music gods in my eyes, even before they have released their debut album. Seriously no exaggeration, stick with this band, they are probably the most capable band of the last 15-20 years

The comment has 82 thumbs up as of this post. No pressure, guys.

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