Category Archives: shoegaze

A Place To Bury Strangers – Pinned (2018)

Even though the band still has the line “total sonic annihilation” on their website, “Pinned” is again softer than its predecessor “Transfixion” of 2015.

As before, some tracks of the new album have been made available earlier as singles. These tracks already gave the idea that the band again took a step away from “total sonic annihilation”. The same was true in 2015, but “Transfixion” still contains some descent mayhem. Not so on “Pinned”…

The album opens with the downtempo track “Never Coming Back” that was one of the singles. It is a good song with a nice noisy middle piece. Also “Execution” reminds of older days, a minimalistic song with noisy out-of-tone guitars, but again, on an earlier album this would have been one of the soft songs. Then follows a very soft song with the “wavey” sound that the band has played with before.
The album develops towards slightly noisy tracks that are somewhat “poppy”. Most tracks are nice, but as I previously preferred older material over “Transfixion”, I think I will play “Pinned” even less.

And then comes something weird. The album lasts for only about 35 minutes (12 tracks). This is the album that is available on ‘normal’ cd. There is also a “Brainwash Machine” version which has an extra cd with 8 extra tracks and a running time of about half an hour. These two would have easily fitted on one cd to make an album with a proper length. This double cd version can only be bought as part of a box set which has thrice the price of the cd. The extra tracks are available on digital music sources though…

This cd opens with a drilling machine and guitar noise and the tracks here are more wickedly experimental and noisy. I suppose this cd is the side of the band that is (now) regarded as ‘less suitable for the general public’. It is not that here we only get the “total sonic annihilation” that we were waiting for, but there are some new style-experiments with little coherence, possibly songs that were recorded, but which the label did not find fitting for the album itself. Looking over this cd, in general the tracks are not better than on the album itself, but the more interesting material is to be found here.

A thing that I noted -by the way- is the prominent place of female vocals. Is Lia Braswell a new member or was she pushed ‘forward’ more? In any case, according to Discogs the band has had some line-up changes with four members no longer present. I have no idea if these changes are recent and perhaps explain to more ‘accessible’ (relatively speaking of course) style, but just something I noticed.

So to wrap things up. “Pinned” makes a nice album. Be sure to get the double cd when you liked the band before. Again the band seems to be drifting away from my musical preferences, so my guess is that when I feel like listening to “total sonic annihilation” I will keep going back to older albums.

Links: A Place To Bury Strangers, Dead Oceans

The KVB * Of Desire (cd 2016)

I have known this band for a while. I ran into them when digging through the ‘minimal wave scene’, but this scene is a bit wider concerning musical styles. The same can be said about The KVB, because they do not really make ‘minimal wave’, but rather some sort of ‘shoegaze’. Over the years I have read all kinds of descriptions for music from that corner. “Ghostwave”, “witch-wave” and whatnot.

Basically the music of The KVB is electronics and a (bass) guitar. What you see more often from this angle of music, it is a boy/girl duo. Music-wise you may think of The Soft Moon and in a far distance A Place To Bury Strangers. More comparable is some of the music released by Aufnahme + Wiedergabe.

“Of Desire” is an alright album. The same I can say about many releases from this ‘scene’. It is currently a type of music that I listen to quite a bit, but there is not a whole lot that I think is completely brilliant. Since it is easy music to listen to, it goes well as background music.

Should all this be new to you, The KVB is not the worst band to start your explorations with. They are big enough for this album to appear on Spotify and Deezer, so it is not difficult to give them a try.

Links: The KVB, Invada

The Soft Moon * Deeper (cd 2015)

A couple of years ago I discovered The Soft Moon when I was looking for A Place To Bury Strangers-like shoegaze-rock style bands. The Soft Moon is a descent band in that ‘genre’, but when I saw them at the 2013 Summer Darkness festival, they proved to be much more energetic on stage than on their albums which made their show more interesting than their albums.

While at the gothic Summer Darkness festival the band probably did not have their usual audience, yesterday the band played at the Psych Lab Eindhoven festival with a whole range of different-style psychedelic bands; more their scene I think. Their show was with quite a distance the most interesting of the evening. Whereas many band were slow and… psychedelic, The Soft Moon were noisy, uptempo and very energetic. Judging my review of the “Zeros” album, that also was true for the Utrecht show. The band played quite a few tracks that I did not know, so I figured they might have a new album out and indeed, their merchandise stand had “Deeper”.

The cd opens in a promising way with the uptempo “Inward”. Just as in my previous review, I can say that “Deeper” is not as continuously energetic as the live performance. There are also slower and even soft songs to be found on the album. Like in my previous review I can say that there are great and alright tracks on the cd and again I prefer the faster tracks. There seems to be more focus on electronics this time with some beat-driven tracks, but in basis the sound of The Soft Moon is shoegazish, slightly psychedelic rock, somewhat reminding of the sound of A Place To Bury Strangers; so: noisy with high-pitched guitars.

A nice album, but perhaps a live album would be even nicer.

Links: The Soft Moon, Captured Tracks

A Place To Bury Strangers * Transfixion (cd 2015)

A little over two years I discovered A Place To Bury Strangers from Brooklyn, NY. They have grown to be my most favourite popband. What I did not know back then is that this band somehow seems not too far from the scene where much of my music comes from. A Place To Bury Strangers is often named in a line with The Lost Rivers, The Soft Moon or The KVB, bands that are scheduled on festivals such as the Wave Gotik Treffen. There are even people drawing lines towards the ‘minimal wave scene’ (under whichever name) calling the musical style “ghost wave” or “witch wave” which includes bands like Agent Side Grinder who do not sound anything near similar in my ears.

In any case, today “Transfixion” was unleashed unto the masses. I am now playing the album through Deezer and have already ordered my physical copy. In April the band is coming to my country. Since I got to know them, they visited my country twice and both times I was abroad. This time I got my tickets the day they were available, so I am not going to miss them again (lest someting unexpected happens of course). The new album does not have the flying start of previous albums. The band is at its best (to me) in their uptempo tracks which until now included the opening tracks of their albums. Not so on “Transfixion”. “Supermaster” makes a nice opener to get in the mood, but the mood is yet relatively soft; calm before the storm so to say. After this we are off with one of the two songs that have been available earlier, the uptempo track “Straight”. Some softer tracks follow and just when I started to wonder if APTBS took a step back in energy the other track that we already knew is up, the great “We’ve Come So Far”. But it gets even better with the great, dirty track “I’m So Clean” and “Fill The Void”.

Like before, the band goes from a rather wavey sound (in the 1980’ies gothic style) to shoegaze to downright noise-rock. Some tracks are slow, some are explosive and great. The band also likes a joke; sometimes the distortion is so heavy that it sounds like they blew up the studio (or my speakers). I am very curious what this is going to sound like live. “Transfixion” is not as good as “Worship”, but is certainly is another great album.

Links: A Place To Bury Strangers, Dead Oceans

The Vandelles * Strange Girls Don’t Cry

Aha, so there are bands that are almost as noisy and ‘rocky’ as A Place To Bury Strangers! The Vandelles make some nice sleazy rock music with a lot of feedback. They are not always as fast as APTBS, but the music is mostly nicely uptempo. Also here are the wave-like vocals, so I guess I can also tag this release ‘shoegaze’ however, just as with APTBS, the term does not entirely cover the music. In any case, great popmusic!
Links: The Vandelles, Moon Sound Records

The KVB * Immaterial Visions (lp 2013)

I am glad that when I heard about “Minus One” I also noticed that there is new material available (the music for “Minus One” is from 2011). “Immaterial Visions” contains more lively, more noisy, more pushing electronically music. Not that it comes anywhere near the raw shoegaze rock of A Place To Bury Strangers, but this lp is in sound closer to The Soft Moon than the other release. Still somewhat soft, but more lively and generally quite a bit better. If you like the wave/shoegaze sound of the bands that I mentioned and/or just the 1980’ies type of wave, The KVB might be a band to listen to.
Links: The KVB, Cititrax

The KVB * Minus One (cd 2013)

I had ran into The KVB on my hunt for shoegaze and to my surprise they played at last year’s (2013) Wave Gotik Treffen. Listening to “Minus One” the latter may not be so strange, because The KVB’s sound on this album may have shoegaze elements, but it is more wave than shoegaze. Soft rock with electronics (mostly for the rhythm), sometimes going a bit in a Suicide direction. The album is rather soft, it could have used a little more energy. The material for this cd was first released in 2011 and another album has been released together with it and it contains a sound that I prefer.
Link: The KVB

Suuns ‎* Images Du Futur (cd 2013)

Well well, so now also Deezer starts to recommend music to me? I got a recommention for Suuns because I listen to Duchess Says. Now Suuns have little incommon with Duchess Says save the fact that the two bands are playing two shows together. And of course they both play guitar pop with electronic elements, but the results are very different. I also knew Suuns because I ran into them when looking for shoegaze that is interesting. Not that this band makes very typical shoegaze, but there certainly are elements to be found (not so in Duchess Says). The album that Deezer thought I should listen to was the previous album “Zeroes QC” from 2010. That album is indeed somewhat interesting, but mostly because it contains pretty experimental pop music, very soft pop, dreampop perhaps even. There are some nice songs, I especially like the songs with more electronics than guitars. The album is a bit slow, melancholic maybe even. “Images Du Futur” starts off with more tempo and nice, screaming guitars. Most of the songs are a lot slower though with some electronics, sometimes a little bit of rock, sometimes a noisy guitar; mostly soft pop though. Like on the other cd there are a few nice songs, but most of them I am quite indifferent to. I would not turn it off when I heard it on the radio, but I do not think I will play Suuns very often.
Link: Secretly Canadian

v/a * Death # Disco III (cd 2013)

Strange how things work sometimes. I listen a lot of different kinds of music. Since Last.fm this has increased a lot and now in combination with Deezer perhaps even more. A while ago I ran into the brilliant band A Place To Bury Strangers who make some sort of shoegaze (1980’ies wave elements, screaming guitars, etc.), but much more uptempo than the “dreampop” variety of the style. I have been looking for other interesting bands in that style and found good bands that combine guitars and electronics. To my surprise one of these bands (The KVB) played at last year’s (2013) Wave Gotik Treffen and than two more (The Soft Moon, Lebanon Hannover) at Summer Darkness. At a music-stand at Summer Darkness I checked the boxes of the usual goth-mailorder and found A Place To Bury Strangers, but also quite a bit of “minimal wave” (and related) music. That part included “Death # Disco” compilations, compilations of a Berlin based monthly clubnight. To my surprise these compilatons contain bands that I previously discovered as “shoegaze” (The KVB, The Exploding Boy, The Lost Rivers, etc.) and as “minimal wave”, another genre that I enjoy discovering (Agent Side Grinder, Xeno & Oaklander, Echo West, etc.). Apparently everything is growing together or is not as separated as I initially thought.
In any case, “Death # Disco III” goes from very nice uptempo analogue dancemusic to screaming guitars. Some tracks are downright briliant, but others are pretty boring, an experience that I got used to in ‘both scenes’. Nice to run into these compilations though.
Link: Death # Disco

The Soft Moon * Zeros (cd 2012)

I already knew The Soft Moon when I noticed that they would play at this year’s Summer Darkness festival. Out of place, since they are not from ‘the gothic scene’, but fitting with their sound which certainly has 1980’ies wave and gothic rock elements. The show was great, the albums that I listened to a bit on Deezer, are nice too. Great tracks and alright tracks alternate. During their show I bought two albums, “Zeros” is their last album, so I decided to review it.
“Zeros” has more uptempo songs which are the songs I like best. The sound reminds a bit of A Place To Bury Strangers here and there. The ‘wavey’ beats/drums, high-pitched guitars and screaking sounds (no guitars, but coming from the synth). There are not that many vocals, usually just some screaming. “Zeros”, as the other albums that I heard of The Soft Moon, goes from great tracks to nice tracks. Live they seemed more energetic and rocking, in the living room the sound is a lot better than it was in Tivoli (way too loud). A nice album, certainly, but not the best ‘in the style’ that I know. One of the faster bands though, so if you like A Place To Bury Strangers or The Lost Rivers, you might be interested in The Soft Moon too.
Links: The Soft Moon, Captured Tracks