My experience with the shoegaze genre goes as deep down the rabbit hole as Yo La Tengo, My Bloody Valentine and The Smashing Pumpkins - so, not very deep. And I wonder is this my own fault—a lack of musical due diligence—or is it a product of underexposure in musical criticism? I suspect it’s a mix of both. The genre, like emo, has branched into various musical trees.
Finding a band near the roots of shoegaze is rare. Plenty of current bands are utilizing distorted, droning guitars and hazing atmosphere to create a layered, amorphous sound (i.e., Hammock, some Portugal. The Man and Pikul-era Silversun Pickups), but it’s never the center of their music. UK-based Seacow, though harken back to the genre’s golden age, and their debut album Calf is a foggy overture in what shoegaze in the 2010’s can and should be.
Fronted by chief songwriter and guitarist Martin Soloman, Seacow is the antithesis of the up-beat, energetic music emanating from young bands in big city’s here in the US. Soloman’s guitar is drenched in ethereal effects and his voice rarely changes register as he lulls listeners into a sonic daze. The band is comprised of Soloman, Darren Gibbs (bass) and Matt Badger (drums), and showed a knack for crafting introspective, ambient music with their Steller Has Gone e.p. but it had no sense of cohesion. They’d yet to see the forest for the trees. Less than a year later, their sound seems fully realized.
Calf is very much a sum of its parts. Listeners should absorb the full-length through repeated listens instead of trying to pick favorite tracks. There are no true “singles” here. The album as a whole is one big, foggy daydream—distinguishing moments oscillate with each listen.
Each song can fit in one of two camps: plodding, spacehead numbers (“Operation Mincemeat,” “So Cold” and “Farmer Farm”) or relatively up-tempo jams (“Toxo,” “Jed” and “Break Point”). It’s all dream-dripping Neo-psychedelia reminiscent of Angelo Badamenti’s Twin Peaks score, and it’s all fantastic.
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