Miniatures - Jessamines (Saint Marie Records)
I’ve known about this album for a while. Back in 2016, I first communicated with guitarist Ché Walden and he was kind enough to send me a copy. He was also searching for a label and the band’s vocalist had left the fold (not sure if she ever came back), and happily, they are now on the venerable Saint Marie Records here in the US. Both Ché and vocalist Annemarie Duff hail from New Zealand but pulled up stakes and moved to Melbourne, the band’s home base. With the addition of Chris MacLean on bass, the band worked with renowned Melbourne producer Matthew Hosking on this debut release.
To say it’s a beauty of a record, full of shimmering goodness, is an understatement. It contains all the elements to send psych/shoegaze fans into aural overdrive. Annemarie’s cooing vocals perfectly suit this densely textured music, and Ché knows his way around a guitar. Hard to believe it’s only three people working in tandem, but the wonders of modern day studios make it all happen. This is no paint by numbers gaze as so many others are; they really have found a niche with their sound. Note that I put psych next to shoegaze above. To me, they go hand in hand with dream pop. It’s like a trifecta of cool, and Miniatures dips its toes into all three streams, though shoegaze is probably the primary genre explored here.
Starting out with the ethereal “Try”, you’ll be dosed with a touch of tranquil ambience mashed up with dreamy electronica. It’s not far off from the work Slowdive is producing now. The title track “Jessamine” is a barn burner with aggressive percussion that when peeled back, stands next to gracefully rendered guitar and Duff’s sweet vocals. “To the Lake” sounds the most like one of their influences (Lush), with guitars skittering lightly off the top of a towering stack of gauze. Hazy, dazy, and wonderful!
“Dust” has a rollicking beat that really appeals to me. “Without Saying” is like a dash of the Thames Valley 90s brought forward in time. It has a very determined focus on that classic sound, and I love skipping down memory lane as I listen. “Honey” is the obvious hit (to me), with its massive hooks and an instant head bobbing beat. Instant love! “What You Want” is another tune I’m fixated on, with its wall of fuzzed out gaze and Annemarie’s crystalline vocals.
No matter how much noise covers the main melody, you can’t keep it from soaring above all else. On this end, the somewhat ominous “Silent Tide” competes with the mournful wail of a distant train chugging by. I like the weather shift in mood, as this darker dream pop really suits the band. The final tune “Standstill” is contemplative and serene, bringing down the energy for a time before ending in fuzzed out bliss. A wonderful record from an emerging new talent!