you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

07 December 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Hammock | Universalis. Reviewed by Elizabeth Klisiewicz.


Hammock - Universalis (Hammock Music)

Ah, another Hammock release to savor and muse about. It is always a joy to unwrap a new suite of Hammock songs and immerse myself in it. It is akin to a spiritual experience to connect with music straight from the heart and mind of this brilliant Nashville group.

There is little information in the liner notes for this album. We know that Marc Byrd’s wife Christine contributes vocals, and Matt Kidd of Slow Meadow plays keyboards and helped with editing on some tracks. To achieve the marvelous skeins of sound on Universalis, they brought in Francesco Donadello (A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Olafur Arnalds, Johann Johannsson) and Peter Katis (Interpol, Jonsi, The National), who each mixed portions of the album.

They create and render this beautifully intricate music that could easily have come from another world. It is cerebral, fraught with emotion, and leaves you pondering so many things in your life. It is the second of a three album series, and while the last album Mysterium was awash in darkness, Universalis is suffused with light and the warmth of these organic compositions. This release may remind long time listeners of their 2006 classic Raising Your Voice...Trying to Stop an Echo while also keeping the deep ambient, neoclassical format of Mysterium. At this writing, the band has released four singles from this album, all of them great.

“Mouth to Dust...Waiting” hovers on the periphery like a newly dawned sun, and its lush instrumental passages enfold you in a gem-studded musical tapestry. The string sections are crisp and immediate, and while there is hope dotting the horizon, there is also longing and great sadness woven into the musical threads of this album opener. “Scattering Light” is a gentle follow on tune, with minimalist percussion and a gradual layered escalation of sound. I can certainly understand why it was chosen as a single. It is also slightly trippy in that dreamy way only Hammock can pull off, again and again. The title track is equally beautiful, and as moving as anything I’ve heard from the band. There is a slight urgency underlying the beautiful main melody, and it haunts long after the song fades away.


“Cliffside” paints bright colors over gray strands of melancholy, and ends all too soon. I associate “Always Before Your Eyes” with the sea, and I am not sure why that is. Perhaps I am on a midnight sail with bright stars overhead, yet I sense danger lurking in the waves. It reminds me of Daniel Land’s riverrun project, and maybe that is why the ocean keeps coming up as I listen. “Tether of Yearning” holds out hope that things will improve, and never wavers in its conviction. “Clothed with Sky” is spare and minimalist, short and sweet with simple piano at its fore. Voices are added in a bit later, along with magnificent string movements. Just gorgeous! “Thirst” is mesmerizing post rock, the perfect soundtrack for an art film yet to be made. “We Watched You Disappear” is pensive and somber, and I can only think of people who leave us, whether it’s an intentional action, or they leave this earthly plane. It is possibly the finest song among a set of great tunes, but that is all up to the listener. The final tune “Tremendum” may have you wondering, what does it all mean? Hammock has this effect on me always, splitting open my skull and forcing me to really listen. I listen to other instrumental music, but none of it has this effect on me. It is a great upwelling of emotion as the song takes hold, yet it attains a certain distance as it moves past and draws to a close.

Universalis is not music to dance to, yet you might find yourself weaving about to a tune only you can hear. It is deeply personal music and it’s almost a feat of magic to get this across to listeners, yet Hammock has a great talent for doing so. No fan of this band should pass this record up, and interested listeners should definitely pick it up.

Catch up with the band over on Facebook and pick up the album on their Bandcamp page.

28 November 2018

About Furiosa: Live Shoegaze in the Philippines with Cherie Gonzales.

Artwork by Neil Pagulayan.

The powerful gothic dream pop of Philippines/Singapore project Narcloudia (see our recent interview) came to our attention by way of Cherie Gonzales of Quezon City, the Philippines' most populous city, which adjoins national capital Manila to form the nucleus of the greater region called the Metro by locals. Cherie revealed that her efforts on behalf of Narcloudia are part of a larger group project called Furiosa, which presents a growing monthly showcase of live shoegaze and dream pop in the Metro. Furiosa’s vision, however, extends beyond the group's accomplishments thus far. We asked Cherie to introduce herself to our readers and tell us about where Furiosa has been and where she hopes to go. (Yes, “Furiosa” takes feminine pronouns; as Cherie says, “Furiosa will always be a ‘she’ for us.”) Thank you, Cherie!

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Hey, Cherie Gonzales here doing a piece on what is brewing amongst the shoegazers of Manila.

I still consider myself a noob in the genre as it was only the middle of this year that I stumbled on the terms “shoegaze” and “dream pop”. I never realized that the music of Sugar Hiccup that I swooned to back when I was an impressionable teen was within that ethereal realm. I had it lumped together with other non-mainstream music and only knew it as “alternative”. Shoegaze and dream pop were almost unheard of in the Philippine music scene back then.

Fast-forward to 2018: I stumbled upon Furiosa, a small collective of musicians eking out monthly shows that featured local bands that have chosen to embrace the “scene that celebrates itself”.

Helmed by Romel Amoncio, himself a member of local shoegaze band The Rave Tapes, the group had its humble debut back in August 2017 in a small, dark basement bar in Quezon City called Mow’s.




Amoncio had realized the need for more avenues for talented independent local bands to showcase their music. This need was more prevalent amongst shoegaze and dream pop bands as the genre was virtually invisible in this part of the world. He believed that there was so much talent but the bands were finding it difficult to be heard in a music scene being overrun by big music labels which have both the funding and the machinery to market their chosen few. Few gigs, no funding, little audience awareness of these genres led to bands either changing their sound or throwing the proverbial towel in.

Such was the ballgame when Furiosa was born. With nothing more than their own meager funds and the passion to provide such an outlet for their contemporaries, the group plodded on month after month.

It was the second quarter of 2018 when I joined in the fray after an earful of the bands’ music triggered a flashback to the music I loved as a kid. Not being a musically-gifted person myself, I pitched in as Furiosa’s noisemaker in the social media sphere. 

26 November 2018

INTERVIEW: Beatrix Alcala of Narcloudia.

Beatrix Alcala.
Narcloudia is a trio of women who base their project in both the Manila/Quezon metropolitan area of the Philippines and in Singapore. Their debut release, a darkly lovely, at times Portisheadian EP called Sky Spectre, came out in 2014. This past October 27th saw the digital release of Narcloudia’s first full-length, Day-Blind Stars (we posted the lead track's video here). The album is an attractive, ambitious alloy of dream pop, shoegaze, and goth. The music immediately invokes a sense of gravity and mystery and invites deep absorption. Lead vocal lines hypnotize, caressing like silk scarves passing aloft on a breeze. The first outside reference point that comes to mind for Narcloudia is Cocteau Twins, both the early, more gothic sound captured on Garlands and later achievements as well. Those who know and love Cranes and Bristol, England’s Dreamscape will also find much to celebrate here.

Its artistry and distinction qualify Day-Blind Stars as a significant release in the shoegaze and dream pop field. We hope it will receive a level of attention commensurate with its worth and see international release in physical format. Many thanks to Beatrix Alcala, the guitarist and vocalist who leads Narcloudia, for answering the following questions for WTSH. Thanks are due also to Cherie Gonzalez of Manila metro’s ongoing live shoegaze event series Furiosa—about which we’ll be posting in a few days—for bringing Narcloudia to our attention.

14 November 2018

NEW SINGLE + VIDEO PREMIERE: Deep Cut | Still Counting.

Today we’re exclusively premiering Deep Cut’s video for their brand-new single, “Still Counting”, and we couldn’t be more stoked about it! “Still Counting” is taken from the band’s forthcoming and long-awaited third LP, Different Planet, which is due for release on January 25, 2019. “Still Counting” is now available digitally, along with another new tune entitled “Hanging Around”, via the label Gare du Nord Records.

Deep Cut is a London-based psychpop band formed in 2006 by Mat Flint, formerly the frontman of well-known 90’s project Revolver, and Emma Bailey. The duo is joined by Mat's brother Simon Flint on bass and Ian Button on drums. Deep Cut’s previous albums, My Thoughts Light Fires (2009) and Disorientation (2011), were both released via Club AC30, and Deep Cut is a fine example of that label’s impressive pedigree. The band has also previously produced some cranking remixes for artists like Ringo Deathstarr, Tim Burgess, Daniel Land and The Megaphonic Thrift.

“Still Counting” shows Deep Cut returning to their distinguished shoegaze/dream pop roots with the energy and aplomb we have come to expect from this talented bunch. The song’s overall vibe is pure shoegaze sunshine with its infectious melody, reverb-drenched guitars, and Emma’s sparkling vocals. The breezy, colorful video is the perfect accompaniment to this little slice of shoegaze perfection. If this first single is any indicator, Different Planet will be yet another well-crafted, inspiring offering from Deep Cut.


13 November 2018

INTERVIEW: Will Steakin of THE SOFAS.


Brooklyn-based trio The Sofas are pedal-wielding psych-gazers that bring the damn noise. Their sonic palette is expansive, including elements of shoegaze, psych, noise pop and garage rock, all of which the band deftly blends while still managing to sound fresh and compelling.

The newly released debut LP, Chop Water, was mixed by Bill Skibbe (Blonde Redhead, Protomartyr). Shoegaze is definitely a thematic sound here, but there are also moments on the album that bring to mind veteran noise punks Sonic Youth, and some of the screeching, fuzzed out guitar solos are quite reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr.

The album brims with energy and while the songs are obviously carefully crafted, there’s also a wildness to them that makes the album feel unpredictable and exciting. Many songs open with an onslaught of carefree fuzz and a head-bobbing beat only to slowly transition into so much unhinged guitar and chaotic reverb that they almost feel like aural hallucinations. The band’s innate pop sensibility brings all of these elements together in a catchy and melodic way that’s difficult to resist.

We recently chatted with the Sofa’s songwriter, Will Steakin, and you can find the results of that conversation below. Do yourself a favor and check out Chop Water; this hidden gem deserves your attention. We can say without a doubt that the album is one of our favorite releases of the year.

How and when was the band formed?
It started out as just me like 5 years ago just writing and recording songs after moving back to NYC and then I eventually met Don and Myles which really took things to a new level over the past year or so.

Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (any new releases, tour, etc.)?
Our first album just came out called Chop Water. We’ve been working on this thing for what seems like forever. Some of these songs I wrote like 5 years ago while others were written in the studio right at the finish line. It’s taken forever to get done and I’m just so happy it’s finally out there.


Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
I don’t know if we are part of any scene, but I’d love to be, that sounds really cool. I think we are for sure influenced by shoegaze bands and that scene, especially from the late 80s early 90s. As far as genres are concerned, I’ll leave it to listeners to decide because honestly, I have no idea myself. But I’m also not against our music being labeled a certain genre if that means people are listening.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
I think there are so many bands that are making amazing shoegazy and dreamy music right now. One that really inspired this album is a Brooklyn band called Painted Zeros. I saw them at a little show at Silent Barn years ago and it blew my mind. I went home and wrote 3 songs in one night that ended up on this new album.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
I’d say my custom Jazzmaster. I bought a Japanese 90s Jazzmaster off Craigslist around 5 or 6 years ago for like $100 and since then I’ve been pumping money and all kinds of stuff into and now it’s just a beast.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
For this record most of the songs started out as demos or just rough ideas. I usually start with a melody and move from there. If I can get two interesting things out of a melody I’ll start trying it out in Garage Band to see if it sucks or not, which about 85% of the time it does suck, but for that 15% I’ll play with it on there and try to move it to an interesting direction before taking it to the guys and seeing what we keep and what we change. Sometimes the song stays exactly how I recorded it but other times we rework the whole thing.


When it comes to label releases versus DIY/Bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
Oh, man. I think if you’re rich or have access to money you probably don’t need a label today, right? But for us, we're not rich and we wanted our shit to be released and listened to, so a label can really help if you find the right people. The guys over at Jurassic Pop have been awesome with us and I was just happy that they liked our music let alone wanted to help us release it.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?
I for sure prefer vinyl. As things get more digital, which I also don’t mind, I do think vinyl at least has a sound benefit to me. Our album is out on yellow cassette, which is really cool, but I would love for it to one day be printed on vinyl.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
I think for this record early on I was really influenced by the album Isn't Anything by My Bloody Valentine. It’s by far my favorite MBV album, which people love to mock me over. But I just love how raw it is, and how you can hear hints of the Loveless sound but it’s still punchy and the melodies are just incredible. I also was listening to a lot of Stereolab, especially their early, more guitar-driven stuff like Peng! and Switched On. Also a lot of Breeders and the Amps, the Clean, Frank Ocean, Brendan Canning and a lot more stuff I can’t think of at the moment.


What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
This is a bonkers question to ask lol. I think like most people I’m still trying to figure out what my philosophy on life is? So maybe that’s it? But in general, I just want to create things. I constantly find myself consuming shit all day long, food, a new Netflix show, new music, etc. -- I think want I want to do is try to remember to create more often, even if I’m lazy as hell and would rather just watch another episode of the Great British Bake Off.