It was about fifteen years ago that I first heard Psychocandy by The Jesus and Mary Chain. Little did I know what kind of ripple effect that album would have on the underground musical landscape which you can still hear very clearly today with an ample amount of artists. Post-punk had been around for while and shoegaze was starting to emerge (genres which have a symbiotic relationship in my opinion) in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and would spawn bands like Ride, Slowdive and demigods My Bloody Valentine.
Shoegaze never broke into the mainstream like grunge did in the early ‘90s and maybe that's why it’s aged so well. The genre is still relatively obscure to the masses but in an age where almost anyone can record there seems to be an endless amount of bands that are barking up the shoegaze tree. That being said there aren’t too many bands that do the genre justice. Luckily, that is not the case with the self-titled EP ultraviolet from ultraviolet. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks with this release and it’s a shoegaze album that gets a lot of aesthetic choices right.
The whole EP is covered in hall reverb, the vocals hang relatively low in the mix and that ambiguity, dissonance and dreamlike atmosphere that defines the genre is present. Behind the music are only two members Caitlin Craighead and James Grantham who have a similar dynamic to the band Beach House. Craighead is the lead singer who does contribute to the music while Grantham seems to only be focused on the music. Although Beach House unequivocally has traces of shoegaze (especially their release Depression Cherry) ultraviolet’s music leans towards what many would call a pure form of the genre.
Behind the waves of white noise and reverb-laced vocals are well written songs. The EP starts off with “Lock & Key” which from a musical standpoint sounds most aligned with a band like The Jesus and Mary Chain. I was immediately able to enjoy Craighead’s vocals. Suffice it to say she implements a tranquil, melancholy energy into her voice.
“Lock & Key” was a good song but the second track “Hearts in the Sand” is exceptional. The song has just enough optimism and jubilance that balances perfectly against the dissonance of the guitar. In fact the song reminded me of the band The Chromatics whose sound you can also trace back to shoegaze. “Fool's Gold” (not the Stone Roses song) is very atmospheric and dynamic while “Strawberry Echoes” contains catchy vocal melodies behind the white noise. They close with “Cold Coast” which attempts and reaches peaks that border on post-rock.
Ulratviolet will immediately resonate with the purists of shoegaze who still listen to Loveless on a fairly regular basis. For those of you not too familiar with the genre I encourage you to not only give it a listen but give it a couple. Shoegaze is a genre that takes some time to warm up to for most people but once it clicks and you get it there isn’t any turning back.
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