So regardless of what critical naysayers may say about the dearth of new and original ideas in this century, thank God for the shoegaze boom of the 2000s! It finally seemed like it was okay to re-investigate textural psychedelic guitar-based rock.
Melbourne, Australia's Shoal was formed around the nucleus of vocalist Lucy McMillan and multi-instrumentalist Connor McIntosh. They favor the dream pop stylings of Cocteau Twins, but are a little more muscular, less faded - adding tensile steel post-punk basslines, like the moody mysterious of the golden years of The Cure, as can be heard on the track "Broken” on their EP entitled Undying EP.
The best thing about people taking shoegaze and dream pop seriously is a kind of dark, romantic psychedelia that still favors the "continual derangement of the senses" called for by decadent poets like Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire. This is druggy, disorienting music that doesn't spin in the sunshine, which favors opium and sandalwood over patchouli and Nag Champa. This is music for early morning romance, for prowling empty city streets, for falling in love and falling out of it.
The Undying EP features all of the classic trappings of classic dream pop - the swirling, flanged guitars, the confectionary sugar female vocals - with some experimentation on the style, in the form of glistening electronics, as can be seen on the first, and best track "Edges of the Earth,” as well as some earth acoustic elements, as on "Stay.”
The only derivation from the classic template that doesn't work in Shoal's favor is the lyrics being rendered in close-up clarity, as opposed to the blurry, ethereal fashion favored by the first wave of shoegaze, where the voice was just another texture in the mix. The ability to read the lyric sheet means that while this could be a classic moody romantic psychedelic gem, it could also be a score for a live action vampire role playing game.
Not a deal breaker, however. McMillan has a lovely voice, and the layers of burning guitars are exemplary. Since this has been recorded, Shoal have updated to a four-piece, and are gearing up for live shows and the recording of a full-length. Clearly, this is an impassioned band that wants to spread their dreamy message.
So slit the blinds, and laze about in the fading twilight. Fall into a nocturnal reverie, and let this short-n-sweet EP fill your head with visions of incense and stars.
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