Nathan Smith, aka The Virgance, has been writing and performing for quite some time. Some of you may remember the band Ripley that had moderate success with the single “Get Out” in 1998. He was the guitarist. After they broke up he joined a group called Loveless, which eventually parted ways as well. Most recently he released a solo effort entitled Lost Continent, which is basically the wet dream for a fan of shoegaze. It’s an instrumental-based album that tips its hat to pioneers of the genre such as My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Slowdive. Smith sounds best when he combines white shards of dissonance with an undercurrent of serene tranquility and nostalgia. This is a guitar album that knows how to achieve some of the classic waves of sounds you come to expect from a shoegaze album.
The album leaks its way into existence with the first track “Cataclysm.” Flourishes of ethereal sounds create an angelic atmosphere before the harsh frequencies of a guitar invade to bring dissonance. Eventually submerged drums enter the picture giving slight energy to the fog of sound Smith has created. Smith is just getting started as “Drowning Maya” reminded me of what m83 might sound like if he embraced guitars instead of synths. It is an impressive collage of overpowering sounds that can create a euphoric sense of relief.
The third song “Her Reflection” is arguably the best song on the album. It starts off sounding as if you are on the beach on some planet a couple of light years away from earth. There is the overall feeling of distant expansion and majesty. As the song progresses and layers are added the sound gets to a boiling point as if it is about to explode. Smith wisely goes less grandiose and more melodic on “Hydrolagus” before pouring on curtains of white noise in “Cedar Rapids.”
The album ends with “Leonid Memory,” which doesn’t end in typical grandiose fashion. Like Stars Of The Lid Smith implements notes and changes that you might not expect it to go. The song lies somewhere in a line of polar opposites that battle for homeostasis. For example, the angelic vocals coupled with ominous feedback create a unique flavor of sounds that a good majority of artists strive for but never achieve.
This album may be hard to digest for those unfamiliar with the genre. It is all instrumental and may take some patience to see if this is something you will appreciate. That being said this is quintessential listening for fans for shoegaze, post-rock and experimental music. Smith nails the production and also avoids typical clichés while tipping his hat too some of the more notable acts within the genre.
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