Let us turn back the clocks, and revisit the year of our lord 1991.
1991 may be best remembered as The Year Punk Broke, as Nirvana forever changed the fate of the underground by releasing Nevermind, and cracking the charts with "Smells Like Teen Spirit." 1991 was also the year when shoegaze would come into its own, as Ireland's My Bloody Valentine released the definitive shoegaze document Loveless.
This broad overview overlooks the wider context of what was happenin, in the musical world, in the first year of the last decade of the twentieth century. Dinosaur Jr. was alive and cracking releasing Green Mind, taking the shoegaze wall-of-sound approach and blending with slack vocals, punk drumming and quick strumming acoustic guitars, creating the prototype for both indie and grunge. And in the wider world, hip-hop, rave,and country music were all infiltrating the mainstream.
The point being, when we think of a particular era of music, the tendency is to focus on the winners, on whatever the accepted narrative of what that time was, and then seek evidence to support those claims. "Oh, My Bloody Valentine was making shoegaze in '91? Who else was making shoegaze?" The result is a minor distortion of the data; an inaccurate view of what life might have been like, in a particular time or place. Most of the time, these distortions are harmless and possibly unavoidable. Other times, like in the case of marginalized cultures, it can be a deadly trap, reinforcing tired tropes that are ultimately damaging to communities. There is a need to get back the source; to come together as one.
I liken it to swimming upstream, to find the source of a musical tributary, searching for the Heart Of Darkness, like Colonel Kurtz. How Down is a collective from Portland, OR, blending the wooly, blurred-edge sonics of shoegaze with the thrashy barbed-wire attack of punk rock and the etherealness of goth and dream pop. How Down remind sus that Kurt Cobain dug The Buzzcocks, The Melvins, and Swans, while Dinosaur Jr. covered The Cure. Goth, post-punk, psychedelia, these things blend and blur like an oil light show at the Avalon Ballroom.
The good thing is, if you like any of these strands or strains, you will find some charm in Lost from How Down. Guitars range from furious ball lightning ("Blind") to lazy and bucolic acoustic porch strums ("Slumber Numb"), while the drums keep everything driving and piling along and the bass provides a catchy melodic underpinning pulling you down like a tar pit.
Although an interest in shoegaze is not mandatory to enjoy Lost, it will help as this short EP definitely favors the lo-fi production aesthetic, which can make you feel like you’re listening to this record on a dead channel in the dead of night. It's muffled, it's distant and it's awesome! You've just got to lean in and listen a little bit harder. How Down is like the most interesting person at the party who has been places and seen things. They may be lurking around the edges - they won't come right out and tell you what they've seen. But when you take a moment to get to know them, they will take you on a journey, over mountains, under dales, to the stars, and back again, all in the span of six songs.
How Down is bringing it all back together: pop and experimentation, anger and sadness, beauty and ferocity. This is total music for complete people from the dark heart of a star.
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