By Allyson Bills
Over the past years, shoegaze music has experienced a resurgence with the reformation of influential bands such as My Bloody Valentine and Ride. In order to celebrate shoegaze’s revival, UK label Ear to Ear Records and Indonesian label Gerpfast Kolektif have teamed up to bring a compilation of underground shoegaze bands around the world called REVOLUTION- The Shoegaze Revival. REVOLUTION is a thirty-track compilation composed of bands from sixteen different countries, which highlights the influence of late 80s to early 90s bands have on the current underground shoegaze scene.
What was surprising to me when I first listed to REVOLUTION is the immense amount of shoegaze bands that are currently coming out of Asia. Hong Kong’s The Yours, with their contribution “Honey Treats,” originally released from their 2012 effort, “The Way We Were,” has a very clean sound similar to that of Whirr as well as the vocal sensibilities of ex-Sonic Youth Thurston Moor. This four-piece has recently gained notoriety from touring with fellow shoegazers The Jesus and Mary Chain and Moore’s band, The Thurston Moore Band.
Shoegaze music has also crept into predominately-Islamic Pakistan, a country that I would ever expect to hear this genre, with the band of //orangeoise. While doing further research on this quartet, I was surprised to learn from their Facebook page that they are unsigned at the time of publication. //orangenoise’s contribution “Puking Rainbows,” previously released from their album “//A Journey to the Heart of Matter,” is a shoegazey, psychedelic song that reminds me of Lush (instrumentally). “Puking Rainbows” is easily one of my favorite songs off REVOLUTION. Hopefully, we’ll hear more of //orangenoise in the future.
South America is usually known to the general public for their soccer prowess, not necessarily the music that comes out of this continent. The record labels behind REVOLUTION is changing this for the music fans. What better way to do this than open the compilation with “She Doesn’t Feel Sun” (originally released from their 2014 self-tiled EP), from Brazil’s Duelectrum. This track begins with a sonic boom, with a sound very reminiscent of Primal Scream’s heavier material. Whereas Chile’s Trementina sounds like a hazier, slower Ride but with female vocals on their song “Hazy Youth” (originally released from their album “Brilliant Noise”). “Hazy Youth” makes me want to ride off in the sunset. The shoegaze bands coming from South America are definitely underrated, and need to have more promotion in the music industry in general.
Besides Asia and South America being represented, REVOLUTION also highlights bands from Australia, North America and Europe. Hideous Towns, the lone Aussie band on this compilation, plays Camera Obscura-sounding dream-pop on their contribution “Pets.” Shoegaze is also coming out of places in the United States not known for producing these types of bands. Brooklyn’s Slow Motion Picture is one of those bands. This band features As Tall As Lions’ guitarist Brian Caesar, and their contribution “Opening” (originally released from their 2014 album In Memory Of...) has a very heavy M83 and Duran Duran flavor. It’s refreshing to hear something other than the indie-dance bands from Brooklyn.
Ummagma, a duo of comprised of Alexx Kretov & Shauna McLarnon, hailing from both Canada and Ukraine, has a tremendous presence in the the underground shoegaze scene. Their presence is demonstrated on their collaborations with other bands on REVOLUTION. They contributed to Russia’s Sounds of Sputnik’s song “Overdrive” (originally released on their 2014 album “New Born,” which features Swervedriver/Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Graham Bonnar), and remixed Brazil’s Robsongs’ “Essa Grande Falta de Voce.” Ummagma’s own contribution to REVOLUTION, “Live and Let Die,” (originally released from their album Antigravity), features a shoegaze supergroup of sorts with Bonnar and Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie. “Live and Let Die” is a mid-tempo, distortion song that also reminds me of a poppy The Walkmen.
Perhaps the most unique contribution on REVOLUTION is Clustersun’s “Hipgnosis,” which was originally released on their 2014 album Out Of Your Ego. This Italian band the least “traditional-sounding” shoegaze band on this compilation. Clustersun has a more new-wave sound that’s comparable to Mercury Rev and Depeche Mode. “Hipgnosis” is one of the tracks on the album that shoegaze is progressing with bands bringing in different influences to their music. This is refreshing and not always evident in other musical genres.
What’s a shoegaze compilation without a band from the UK? Scotland’s Wozniak fits the bill nicely on REVOLUTION. No, Apple’s Steve Wozniak isn’t part of this band. Besides //orangeoise’s “Puking Rainbows,” Wozniak’s “El Maresme” is also one of favorite tracks off this compilation. “El Maresme,” which was originally released on their 2014 EP Pikes Peak is a nearly seven-minute atmospheric track of heavy pedal effects and hollowed vocals. While listening to “El Maresme,” you can tell that they are very influenced by their fellow Scottish mates Mogwai. Like //orangeoise, Wozniak is definitely that we’ll be hearing more about in the shoegaze scene.
REVOLUTION shows the listener how the genre of shoegaze transcends language and geo-political barriers. Music is just music after, and it doesn’t matter where a band comes from as long as you enjoy their music. While listening to this compilation, it’s nice to hear the influences of different genres in each of the bands’ songs while still hearing influences of Ride, Slowdive, etc. However, the only negative to REVOLUTION is that thirty tracks on a single compilation is overwhelming. For this reason, I found it difficult at times to process all the music in order to write this review. I think it would have been a more effective idea for both Ear to Ear Records and Gerpfast Kolektif to release this compilation into two fifteen track parts so the bands each get their fair hear from the listener. However, if you are a music fan, REVOLUTION- The Shoegaze Revival is worth checking out because I guarantee that you will find a new band you’ll love on this compilation.