you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

31 August 2010

Video: My Bloody Valentine. Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside).

This is what Reverse Reverb sounds like:

Gear Review: Digitech Hardwire RV 7 Stereo Reverb Pedal.

re·verb (r-vûrb) Informal noun.
1. A reverberative effect produced in recorded music by electronic means.
2. A device used for producing this effect.

re·verbed, re·verb·ing, re·verbs
To reverberate or cause to reverberate.

Reverb (short for reverberation) is the acoustic environment that surrounds a sound. Natural reverb exists everywhere. Whether the space being described is a bathroom or a gymnasium, the essential characteristics remain the same. Basically it is an echo, a reflection. To me reverb is essential in almost everything I play, even if it's not necessary (it is to me), I still pile it on! There is something about the singing, dreamy quality of "verb" that I adore. It is a must-have effect for most shoegaze/dream pop guitar players, as well as Surf and plain old Rock and Roll. Just listen to the Reverb laden beauty of Slowdive, the echo-drenched dreamscapes of the Cocteau Twins, or the "King" of shoegaze, Mr. Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine). Kevin has made using Reverse Reverb (which is offered on this pedal!) an art form unto itself and created a whole genre (shoegaze)in his wake! My point is this: reverb is an essential effect and shoegaze/dream pop could not have existed without it. With that being said, I will get to to the review.

The Hardwire RV7 by Digitech is a true by-pass, all digital, stereo effects pedal. It comes in a metal housing (as do all in the Hardwire line) and has a Blue LED indicator light (which looks awesome!). It has a brushed steel appearance, metal knobs and is as aesthetically pleasing as it gets. It is slightly larger than a standard BOSS pedal, but with a little ingenuity it can be added to any pedal board. It comes with a standard 9 volt power supply, velcro pedal board pad, glow in the dark sticker (so you can find it in the dark) and the StompLock (very cool!). The StompLock is essentially a piece of rubber that goes over the knobs so they cannot be bumped during play. This doesn't seem to happen too often for myself but it does happen, and the StompLock can alleviate this problem. Here is what the pedal offers effects wise:

Lexicon® Reverb Types-

* Room – Fast decaying reverb; great for a touch of ambience.
* Plate – Renowned studio reverb heard on classic recordings.
* Reverse – Reverb in reverse; gradually crescendos to full volume (MBV, Kevin Shields type effect).
* Modulated – Lush, modulating, reverb ideal for chords (Cocteau Twins).
* Gated – Unique reverb with abrupt decay; good for percussive playing (Total Gaze).
* Hall – Large, encompassing reverb with warm decay (Slowdive).
* Spring – Classic “surf” reverb; great for Rockabilly too! (JAMC).

It has a Tails On/Off Switch (located underneath the foot switch) – when on, Reverb tails are not cut off in bypass! The tails feature is a massive improvement over older pedals of this type. What this means is when you turn the pedal off, if the Tails Switch is on, it will slowly decay. If Tails switch is off it will cut the effect abruptly and stop it "dead". All of the "verbs" on the RV7 are clean and natural. I use every one of them at specific times, for specific songs and they all sound lush and clean. For the money the RV7 performs as well as any rack mount I have ever used and is so, so easy. There is nothing to program (for me that's a plus) and can be manipulated by one of four knobs:

1) Level - controls the amount of Reverb used.
2) Liveliness - controls the amount of high frequency response in the Reverb's effect signal.
3) Decay - controls the length of time it takes the for the Reverb to fade out.
4) Type Knob - controls which type of Reverb you want (i.e. Room, Plate, Hall, etc).

Overall one of the easiest to use pedals I have ever owned.

Now, let me describe the sound of some of the different "verbs". First and foremost, the Reverse Reverb effect. This effect is instantly recognizable as the MBV sound and this pedal does it pretty well! Kevin Shields uses a rack mount Yamaha SPX90 and Yamaha GEP 50 to achieve most of his Reverse Reverb effects. I have owned a Yamaha GEP 50 and it has some amazing programmable effects in it, but for the money this pedal is the way to go. The only other pedal I would consider using is the Yamaha Magic Stomp (which is no longer in production) for a proper Shoegaze type sound. Honestly, I find myself using the Gated Reverb more than the Reverse Reverb. The Reverse has a slight delay in sound that can be confusing on the fly. It quietly crescendos to full volume and can feel almost behind the beat. It definitely takes practice! I suggest playing around with different combinations before using it in a live context (of course!).

The Gated effect is my personal favorite for achieving a gazey sound. It has an abrupt decay that works very, very well. I also really like the Modulated "verb". It is a very subtle effect. It quietly adds a lush chorusing effect on the tail end of the Reverb. It is just beautiful for chordal work (very Cocteau Twins!).

The Hall Reverb is as big as a mountain range and will last almost as long. This is the Slowdive/Daysleepers/Brian Eno type sound! It is very warm and super, super deep. Any ambient guitarist would love it.

The last "verb" is the Spring Reverb and it actually sounds like an old spring box in the bottom of a Vox or Fender! You can get as surfalicious as you want with this thing. It is straight up Ventures/Dick Dale style Reverb. Can you say Jesus and Mary Chain anyone?

Digitech nailed it with the RV7! All of the different Reverb effects do exactly what they say and with a little creativity they can do much, much more. It is a sturdy and easy to use Reverb effects unit for 150 dollars! What more could you ask for? This little box is now an essential part of my rig. I have been using it for about 9 months and have zero complaints. If you need lush, gazey Reverb ,this is the way to go for the money. It's like having several pedals galore (wink,wink!) in one pedal. 5 out of 5 stars!

Review by Danny.

Video. The Sleepover Disaster. Friend.

28 August 2010

Video: Screen Vinyl Image. New Visions (Live).

An amazing live performance of the new track,"New Visions", from the always impressive Screen Vinyl Image. When The Sun Hits will have an interview up with SVI next week, and a review of their new EP, The Ice Station, is also coming very soon! The Ice Station EP will be issued first as a limited run of 200 cassette tapes, followed by the Siberian Eclipse 7″ in the fall (both on Fan Death Records).

27 August 2010

Top Five Shoegaze Records of the Week.

If you are new to When The Sun Hits, one of the cool things we have been doing is a weekly posting of our 5 most-listened-to shoegaze/dream pop albums - classic or new, whatever we happen to have been spinning obsessively each week. Not only are we nerdy list-makers, but it's a good way to get weekly exposure to new and old shoegaze bands. Clicking on the links will take to you to a wealth of info about the bands and their labels, the sites to buy and hear the music, and more! Check out the first, second, third, and fourth previous weekly posts, if you missed them!

*Danny's Top Five Shoegaze/Dream Pop Records of the Week*

1. My Bloody Valentine. Tremolo EP. Creation Records. (1991)

2. The Mary Onettes. Self-Titled. Labrador. (2007)

3. Ride. Smile EP. Creation Records. (1990)

4. Ulrich Schnauss. Stars EP. Domino. (2008)

5. Teenage Film Stars. Star. Creation Records. (1992)

*Amber's Top Five Shoegaze/Dream Pop Records of the Week*

1. A Shoreline Dream. Recollections of Memory. Latenight Weeknight Records. (2009)

2. Alcest. Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde. Profound Lore Records. (2007)

3. Hammock. Chasing After Shadows...Living with Ghosts. Hammock Music. (2010)

4. The Telescopes. Altered Perception. Space Age Recordings. (2004)

5. Cocteau Twins. The Spangle Maker 12". 4AD. (1984)

26 August 2010

Interview: Emma Anderson of Lush and Sing-Sing.

We recently had the good fortune of interviewing the always lovely Emma Anderson, of Lush and Sing-Sing fame, for When The Sun Hits. Being long-time Lush fans, we were both ecstatic to have Emma grace our blog. She astounded us with her humbleness, seeming not to know just how much Lush was and is still today a very much beloved band! Lush was an extremely important cog in the machine of shoegaze, and an amazingly talented band that still has an extraordinary number of followers! We wish Emma all the best, and want to thank her again for her time. Please enjoy finding out a little bit about what Emma has been up to recently in the interview below!

1. How was Lush formed?

Lush formed in 1988 when Miki Berenyi and I, who had met at school aged 14, formed a band with Chris Acland, Meriel Barham and Steve Rippon (whom Miki had met at North London Polytechnic). Previous to that Emma and Miki had both been in other bands (Emma in The Rover Girls and Miki in The Bugs) and had messed around in Emma’s kitchen under the name "The Baby Machines".

2. At the time of Lush did you feel like you guys were a part of the "shoegaze" scene, or any scene?

I guess we did – "The Scene That Celebrates Itself" and then the shoegaze thing and latterly Britpop. These "scenes" are always press invented though. Having said that, we did know a lot of those people quite well. It was harmless enough.

3. Can you tell us what you've been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (recording, tour, etc?)?

I am afraid I haven’t done any music for about 5 years which when the last Sing-Sing album came out. Day jobs and now a baby have scuppered that! I’d love to do something in the future when I have more time but when that might be, who knows!

4. What sort of set up/gear do/did you use? What is/was the most important piece of gear for your sound (i.e. pedals,guitars etc.)?

My main guitar was a Telecaster Thinline though I did use a Stratocaster and a Jazzmaster too. Effects-wise I started off with Boss foot-pedals and had overdrive, chorus, flanger, delay and equaliser but then I moved onto a rack unit called a GP16 which became the bane of my life (it kept breaking down – sometimes in the middle of the set). When I was in Sing-Sing I went back to Boss pedals...much easier!

5. What shoegaze/dream pop bands/artists (if any) have most influenced your work?

I did love The Cocteau Twins even before I met them and I knew My Bloody Valentine pretty well though when I first knew them they were a ‘60s garage band with a male singer called Dave Conway! The House of Love were a big influence at the time, if they count. Other than that, I have many other influences apart from those types of bands – I loved Husker Du and Blondie!

6. Tell us a little about what you are currently into (bands, books, films, etc)?

I am really out of touch with new stuff! My main consumption at the moment is TV. Is that bad? I love Wallender, the Swedish crime drama, and I am getting into Mad Men very late.

7. Can we expect to see a Lush release and/or reunion in the future?

Probably not live work but there has been talk of a compilation though the "talk" has been going on for some time now!

8. Do you think modern bands realize how important Lush were to the development of shoegaze and dream pop?

I don’t know. People were always embarrassed to say they liked Lush – we were never ‘cool’. I suspect we had our fans though – though they never let on.

9. What is your philosophy on life, if any, that you live by?

"If you don’t ask you never get" has always been a motto of mine.

17 August 2010

Interview: The Sunshine Factory.

The Sunshine Factory are Robert Taylor and Ian Taylor, a father and son shoegaze/dream pop duo based in Mobile, Alabama. With two gorgeous and dreamy releases under their belt, Vintage Revolution (2009) and the Sugar EP (also 2009), and more on the way, The Sunshine Factory is a band to keep your eyes and ears on. When The Sun Hits recently interviewed the band, so keep reading to learn a little about the group (they recently added two members!), their influences, and their philosophy on life in general. We love these guys; we think you will, too.

1. Can you tell us what you've been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (recording, tour, etc)?

Robert & Ian: We have been in extremely hush, hush negotiations with an independent label from Atlanta called Adair Park Recordings. We are nearing an agreement for an official release of our self-produced album and EP as a combination album of about 70 minutes or so. It will encompass music from Vintage Revolution and The Sugar EP. We are excited about this looming on the horizon.

The state of the music world today is so exciting and open. It’s kind of like going back to the days of Colonel Parker, Elvis and Chuck Berry. We are also preparing to appear on a music television show called M2B very soon. It will include live footage of a festival we recently played, The Coastline Chronicles. A three day affair featuring all local talent. It will also feature an interview with the band.

We are probably two thirds of the way towards completing our third album. We are calling it Just Remember. This album I think demonstrates a bit more cohesion and the maturing of our songwriting collaboration. We have been writing together (Ian and Robert) seriously for about 5 years now and it just seems like we are getting a sort of cosmic connection and the songs come together more readily which I think allows us to elaborate more in orchestrating the songs. From a purist stand point the new stuff is probably more classically "shoegaze". The "songs as one song" idea also is more persistent I think. We both bring a lot of more experimental fundamentals to the table than perhaps one might guess from listening. Particularly Vintage Revolution has definite pop structure and sensibilities. This does not preclude the process which has been informed very much by other writing processes in which we are involved that are more intrinsically ambient and experimental.

As for touring that will probably happen most seriously in the spring and summer of next year. We want to finish this present album, work hard on promoting and publicizing the work that is already complete and then following up our presence on our new label Adair Park Records. The new album will be done will not be released until next spring or summer because the label wants to increase our visibility first, using the music that is already out there (Vintage Revolution and The Sugar EP). We have in the past few months added a great drummer Matt Hendrich who is a welcome addition to the band in so many ways.

Also we recently added Sally Robertson on bass, who made her live debut on August 12, although she has been practicing with us for a while now. We met her through her brother who plays in a band we love called the Blackjacks, which is a kind of 60’s revival/psych rock band we play a lot of shows with locally. We also have shows in nearby cities in the next few months, New Orleans, Atlanta, Lafayette and also several shows in our home town of Mobile, Al. That’s the nuts and bolts of what is happening with us.

2. What sort of set up/gear do you use? What is the most important piece of gear for your "shoegaze" sound?

Classic player Jaguar HH.
Xaviere JT-40.
Keeley modded tube screamer.
Marshall Guvnor plus.
Dunlop Cry Baby Wah.
Mini Q-Tron.
Lexicon mx200.
Peavey VTM 60.
Windsor Slant 4x12.

As far as my most important piece of gear that would be the guitar. I get most of the sounds from just the guitar, distortion, and tunings. The MX200 comes in handy for its gated reverb, reverse delay and pitch shifting. A lot of the songs utilize the "glide guitar" technique developed by Mr. Shields. Lots of open tunings and capo as well. The Q-tron is that crazy bit you hear in the bridge of "My Sugar Cane."

3. What shoegaze bands/artists (or whoever) have most influenced your work?

Robert: I find shoegaze music most aptly expresses beauty in music while also being honest about the chaos that still exists in our surroundings. The first bands I listened to in this vein were The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus, Swans, The Cocteau Twins, Killing Joke and then as they became more well known My Bloody Valentine. Of course I (Robert) was around for the first wave of shoegaze and understood from the first time I heard it that it would be hugely influential not only to me but to music as a whole. I am pleased that a new generation of listeners and musicians are submersing themselves in this truly magnificent genre of music. I can’t wait to see what gems will be created.

Ian: John Williams, New Order, The Beatles, The Chemical Brothers, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Swans, Stereolab...these are just a few of the influences, but in reality you could include bands from D.R.I. to Allison Krauss and everything in between!

4. Tell us a little about what you are currently into (bands, books, films, etc)?

Robert: I have recently been reading a book on the neurophysiology of music called This is Your Brain on Music. A how and why we like certain rhythms, sounds and frequencies. My other companion book that is dear to my heart is called Wounded by Love. It is the anecdotal account of a simple Greek orthodox monk named Porphyrios and his life. Most profound in its simplicity. Movies, I just love a Russian movie called "Ostrov" and another called "The Island" is amazing. Of course I always love eastern chant; actually any kind of Arabic chant, it doesn’t matter what the religion.

As far as shoegaze bands, I like the Fauns, Ringo Deathstarr and Serena Maneesh, of course our label mates, the Orphins and This Piano Plays Itself. There are so many good bands now that shoe gaze is making such a huge comeback I feel like there is a virtual tidal wave of good bands. As Ian so aptly put it, I hope we have a surf board.

Ian: I have been reading a book called Ultimate Questions, which is an anthology of modern Russian religious thought. Particularly an excerpt by a Russian philosopher named Nicholas Berdaev called "The Ethics of Creativity". It is a wonderful expression of the way that ideas are born and developed and has helped me understand the creative process metaphysically. As for movies I really enjoyed The Flaming Lips: The Fearless Freaks. Just a great documentary.

As far as bands are concerned I am really into, Serena Maneesh, Broadcast, and a lot of 60’s garage rock like the Atlantics. I am also really into this band from L.A. called Dunes.

5. What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?

Robert & Ian: Our philosophy of life is governed by the principal that God is love and only love. Everyone is enveloped in it. You either revel in it and demonstrate it and let it flow through you and be expressed in everything you do music and otherwise. Or you fight against it and become bitter and angry, violent and ultimately extremely unhappy and impossible to be around.. All because you lose sight of the beauty of love which surrounds us all. I hope that we always are able to express love and beauty in our music.

Check out The Sunshine Factory's excellent track, "Blue Sky".

Top Five Shoegaze Records of the Week.

If you are new to When The Sun Hits, one of the cool things we have been doing is a weekly posting of our 5 most-listened-to shoegaze/dream pop albums - classic or new, whatever we happen to have been spinning obsessively each week. Not only are we nerdy list-makers, but it's a good way to get weekly exposure to new and old shoegaze bands. Clicking on the links will take to you to a wealth of info about the bands and their labels, the sites to buy and hear the music, and more! Check out the first, second, and third previous weekly posts, if you missed them!

*Danny's Top 5 Shoegaze/Dream Pop Records of the Week*

1. Medicine. The Buried Life. Beggars Banquet. (1993)

2. Wild Nothing. Gemini. Captured Tracks. (2010)

3. Sway. Mila Pink and Green EP. Sillas Famosas Records. (2003)

4. Slowdive. Pygmalion. Creation Records. (1995)

5. The Sunshine Factory. Vintage Revolution. Self released. (2009)

*Amber's Top 5 Shoegaze/Dream Pop Records of the Week*

1. Screen Vinyl Image. Ice Station EP. Fan Death Records. (2010)

2. Spell 336. Spell 336 EP. BFW Recordings. (2009)

3. Autolux. Transit Transit. TBD Records. (2010)

4. A.R. Kane. Lollita 12". 4AD. (1987)

5. Air Formation. Nothing to Wish For (Nothing to Lose). Club AC30. (2010)

Video: Hammock. You Lost the Starlight in Your Eyes.

From Hammock's lovely 2010 release, Chasing After Shadows...Living With Ghosts. Album review in the very near future!

16 August 2010

Album Review: Bliss.City.East/Vidulgi OoyoO. Split EP.

Bliss.City.East. & Vidulgi Oooyo.
Album: Split EP.
Record Label: Fake Label Recordings.
Release Date: June 6, 2010.

Bliss.City.East. happen to be friends of mine, but that isn't the only reason I'm doing this review. I'm doing it because they rock and this Split EP with Korean shoegaze band Vidulgi OoyoO (pronounced: "peedoogi oooyou" and the definition: "Vidulgi" is pigeon and "OoyoO" is milk) is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. This is some of the best underground gaze you have never heard...yet, that is.

The album was released earlier this year through Korean label Electric Muse and is available for the rest of us on Chicago's Fake Label Recordings. Bliss.City.East. hail from Chicago, Illinois, but sound like London circa '92. Perry Pelonero (guitar, bass, keys and main architect of sound), Kim Welsh (vocals, keys), Gianfranco Ventura (bass), Eric D'asto (guitars), Adam Dahir (keyboards) and Joey Levenson from the mighty SPC ECO (wow!) do an amazing job on this album. Bliss.City.East. know their history and use it to craft a modern shoegaze sound. Perry Pelonero was a guitar tech for and friends with many, many popular and (not so popular!) shoegaze bands back in the day(Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine, etc. These are the popular ones, lol!). Perry knows the history and the sound of shoegaze as well as anyone I know. He also fronted Skylight in 1991, with Brent Martino, which is a great shoegaze band. Perry is the real deal and has used his knowledge to craft a shoegaze mini masterpiece.

The sound of Bliss.City.East. is at once familiar, and at the same time fresh and exciting. The first track is "Signal Earth", and it is a dreamy shoegaze rocker in classic style. Perry does some nice looping in this song, but it's Kim's vocals that really get in your head. The timbre of her voice takes you away to another world. What gorgeous vocals!A+ on "Signal Earth".

Track two, entitled "Stop Clock", is my personal favorite on the album. Kim's vocals are melodic, sexy and ever so dreamy. I love the way she says "tick tock" in the background. It makes you feel as though time is actually running out. For what, I don't know, but it is definitely not out for Bliss.City.East.! These guys will be around a long time if they keep this standard of beauty and craftsmanship up! This track is an instant classic in my opinion.

Track three, "Darth Vader Head" (great title), opens with the deep rhythmic breathing guessed it, Darth Vader! The guitar is pure noise rock/shoegaze fusion. This song is so catchy and not in a typical "pop" way. It is Kim's vocals, again, that catch your ear. This song has a great melody. A+!

Track 4, "Psychic", is mind blowing. It immediately grabs you with a wall of fuzzy guitar and Bonham-"esque" drums. Kim's vocals are murmuring and dreamy. It is hard to understand what she is saying, but that is a shoegaze standard. Most shoegaze/dream pop is about melody, not lyrical content. Just listen to Loveless or Victorialand and tell me what they are saying! I'll pay you if you get it right!! Another A+ track.

This brings me to the last track, "Lovely", and indeed it is just that. What a gorgeous wall of sound and texture! Again Kim's vocals are the "selling" point. She is an amazing talent.The groove on this song is so funky! It has an almost James Brown beat, but sped up a bit. The guitar, as usual, is a wall of resplendent noise. Perry is a master guitarist and uses effects as well as anybody I have ever heard. I don't think I hear a bass in this song. That seems to be the hallmark of good, classic shoegaze (i.e MBV, Secret Shine, Lilys, etc.). "Lovely" is another winner.

I couldn't be happier with what Bliss.City.East. have accomplished on this EP. I cannot wait for the full length, as Perry has let me preview some of the new tracks. They are great, great, great! It is going to be massive. Not only do they have a full length coming soon, but Dean Garcia(!) of Curve and SPC ECO is remixing the track "Darth Vader Head"! I give the Bliss half of this split EP an honest 5 stars.

Now onto Vidulgi OoyoO. Vidulgi hail from Seoul, South Korea and have been stunning shoegaze fans all over Asia for a couple of years. Their first album, Aero (2008), won many prestigious music awards and prizes in their native Korea. This EP is an appetizer of sorts until the sophmore album is released. Vidulgi Ooyoo’s contributions expand upon the material presented on Aero and the new EP offers a look into the sonic dreamscapes the band will explore next.

While all four new compositions are well-crafted and brimming with a wonderful array of hypnogogic guitar noise, Jong-seok (guitars and vocals) admits the group have a definite favourite from the four.

"The songs have similar textures as Aero, but incorporate different spectrums and styles," Jong-seok says. "We tried to include aspects from psychedelic blues, post-rock and ‘90s indie rock. The song "Goodnight Shining" is about a total eclipse I saw on the National Geographic Channel. It was so impressive. We feel that "Goodnight Shining" flows like the scenes of a movie (It does!-Danny). Whenever we play it live, it always moves us," says Jong-seok.

It definitely moves me! Wow, what a brilliant song. It is an instrumental that is much like Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and some Slowdive. This song is an absolute STUNNER. A+ x's 10! "Goodnight Shining" also happens to be the last song on in the line up for Vidulgi, so let me backtrack to the first song. "Mosquito Incognito" is an uber-dreamy shoegaze monster. It reminds me of early Verve. It has the tripped out guitar lines full of silvery delay and fuzz. The male/female vocals tie it all together with a gorgeous bow of melody. The ending is a cacophony of beautiful noise. "Mosquito Incognito" is killer song!

The second track, "Dusky", is another dreamy stunner. It builds slowly with a looping guitar line and high-hat. It is another alluring, sonic mountain of a song. It builds slowly, much like the above-mentioned Explosions in the Sky or Mogwai, and takes you to an altitude rarely experienced in any song. It will make you high!

That brings me to "Mermaid Queen", track three, a bewitching flower of a song. "Mermaid Queen" is noisy, beautiful and trippy, and is sung by Ki-hun Sung with a childlike vocal timbre. Her voice is puerile and beautiful. The music is swirling and noisy. It is the perfect combination of sounds and effects. It pushes you over the edge with sound and makes you question what beauty is supposed to be. It reminds me of Blonde Redhead's album 23 in style. It is really a spiritual experience. Ace track.

Overall, this is a must-own EP. Two great shoegaze/dream pop bands separated by thousands of miles of ocean and culture have come together to create a mini masterpiece. It proves that shoegaze is alive and well all over the world and many, many people love it. It is truly the scene that celebrates itself! (If only life were as simple as this! We could actually consider world peace. Ok, off my soap box.)

This EP gets 5 HUGE stars! Buy it right now!

If you are in the area, Bliss.City.East. play this Thursday August 19,2010 at:

Reggie's Music Joint
2109 State Street
Chicago, Illinois.

Review by: Danny.

13 August 2010

Album review: Velochrome. Velochrome EP.

Artist: Velochrome.
Album: Velochrome EP.
Label: Studio 4FF.
Release date: 2010.

These days it seems as if there are Shoegaze and Dream Pop bands falling from the sky. Almost everyday I discover a new release by a band I have never heard of. In this case it's Velochrome, who hail from Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen Germany and have just released their self-titled EP via Studio 4FF (you can find the link for purchase on their MySpace page). I literally stumbled across this band on YouTube, and I was very surprised by how mature they sound. They have a deep, post-punk sound, along with the swirling guitars of shoegaze/dream pop. It makes for the perfect marriage of textures: silvery, fuzzed out guitars awash in reverb and delay. On the whole this is a very, very satisfying release. The only thing that could possibly make it any better would be more of it!

The main architect of their sound is Tobias Sawitzki. I don't know much about Tobias, other than his name, but what I do know is he alone wrote,recorded and mixed the entire ep! He weaves a sound that is at once familiar, but never cloying or contrived. He delves into the past and brings back the right influences without sounding like anyone in particular. The opening track, "Don't You Know Me",is a gorgeous, swirling beauty. It is immense in scope and is so, so catchy. The chorus will be in your head for days! The vocals are deep and almost Joy Division-esque, but more melodic.

Track two is entitled "So Close Behind Our Eyes" and is the perfect amalgam of dream pop and post-punk. The layered vocals are so chill bump inducing it hurts(in a pleasurable way of course)! The guitar in this song is perfection, in my opinion anything more,or less would destroy its dreamy aura. It has a silvery, cascading melody that explodes into a wall of gazey goodness. The bass line is very Peter Hook in the way that it climbs high and follows a distinct melody line. This song gets an A+!

Track three, "This Solemn Atmosphere", seems to take a left turn on initial listen. With it's conga drum, sitar, flute and acoustic strumming, it catches you off guard (which is a good thing).It has the same layered vocals as the previous track and a beautiful melody line. I have never heard a more apt title for a song. It reminds me of a Blind Mr. Jones track from their classic, must own shoegaze album Stereo Musicale (1992). I suppose it could be the flute that gives rise to the comparison, but it is the overall atmosphere of "Atmosphere" that sparks the connection in my mind to BMJ. Track four, "Stereobath", is indeed just that: a "stereobath"! The panning done in this song is made for the headphone junkie. It is vertigo inducing and will blow away fans of The Verve's more trippy psychedelic moments. I consider it a connecting piece(an interlude) similar to what My Bloody Valentine did on Loveless. "Stereobath" is an aural triumph.

The final track, "Worth and Matter", is definitely more post-punk in its styling. It reminds me of the the mighty and underrated band Breathless, who straddle the dream pop/post-punk fence better than just about anybody in recent memory. It is at the same time both dark and sensuous. A great closing track.

Velochrome seem to be a band destined for bigger,better things. If they release a full-length as stunning as this EP, they will have made a contemporary dream pop classic.It is without hesitation that I give this ep 5 stars. Every song is a stunner, and I await a full-length with bated breath and much hope.

Review by Danny.

12 August 2010

Album Review: The Prids. Chronosynclastic.

Artist: The Prids.
Album: Chronosynclastic.
Label: Velvet Blue Music.
Release Date: June 11, 2010.

The Prids have generated a good deal of buzz around themselves over the years with two excellent full length releases, Love Zero (2003) and Until The World is Beautiful (2006), as well as a handful of stellar EPs. Based in Portland, Oregon, the band is known for their unique blend of dark post punk and shoegaze elements.

The band released their first EP in 2000, and one thing I can definitely hear over a decade of their releases is evolution. A lot can happen in 10 years, and their back catalog has an almost narrative-like growth in sound and lyrical content. 2 years ago, the Prids were in a very serious car accident driving home from a gig, destroying a good deal of their gear; thankfully, the band members themselves were spared (though some were injured). This was an unexpected set back for the band, but they held fast to their vision. Their newest LP, Chronosynclastic, is also their first release since the accident, and one thing rings out beyond all others on this album: triumph. The Prids are known for their dark and despair tinged sound, a defining characteristic that is still in place on Chronosynclastic, but I hear something new here - hope and a love of life. Triumphant in both sound and scope, and embracing a dreamier sound and softer edge than before, Chronosynclastic is the Prids' best release to date.

The album opens with "Hide Your Thoughts", a gorgeous track that swells with huge melodies and swirling guitar. The lovely vocal harmonies Mistina La Fave and David Frederickson create together are a testament to classic dream pop. In fact, more than ever before, this new record makes use of male/female vocal harmonies, expanding the band's sound and giving the songs a dreamier atmosphere. There has always been a darkness to the Prids' sound, but heavier use of Mistina's vocals has added a sparkle in the darkness. The arrangements are lush and grand, and there is an ethereal quality to the tracks that the band has never captured before. Evolution.

"When I Look" is an immediately gripping dream pop song, featuring tumbling guitar and soaring keyboards that perfectly capture both elements of sadness and hope, a feat the Prids do very well. "Waste Our Time" is almost anthemic in sound, with a victorious rock solid melody and strong vocal harmonies that find Mistina sounding not unlike Siouxsie Sioux next to Frederickson's own unique and skillful vocals.

Tracks like "Fragile" truly hallmark the band's expansion of sound, featuring a serene pop atmosphere and a dreamily delivered chorus of "Drowning in your ocean eyes..." that precisely encapsulates the feeling of slowly sinking into something lovely, then brings you back up with upbeat guitar pop, only to drown you again. A beautiful feat for any song. Doug Martsch of Built to Spill does guest vocal harmonies and guitar on "In The Fall", a stellar track with an achingly haunting melody and chorus. The synth arrangements alone on this track are awe-inspiring and beyond gorgeous. The album's closer, "Tonight October", has all of the sweetness of the perfect lullabye, and is the ideal ending for this record. Triumphant, indeed.

Chronosynclastic is a superb effort on the part of the Prids, demonstrating a new scope of sound that adds a ethereal sparkle to their lush darkness. It is a gorgeous melding of genres, showing a band at the very top of their game, and I couldn't recommend it more highly. When The Sun Hits will feature an interview with the lovely Mistina La Fave in the very near future, so look forward to that, and check out the ace track "Desolate" from Chronosynclastic, linked below.

Review by Amber.

Video: Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd. Snowfall.

11 August 2010

Video: The Prids. Love Zero.

Expect a review of the upcoming new record from the Prids, Chronosynclastic, in the very near future, as well as an interview with none other than the lovely Mistina La Fave of the Prids! Until then, enjoy this track from their first album, Love Zero.

Top Five Shoegaze Records of the Week.

One of the cool things we'll be doing on When The Sun Hits is a weekly posting of our 5 most-listened-to shoegaze/dream pop albums - classic or new, whatever we happen to have been spinning obsessively each week. Not only are we nerdy list-makers, but it's a good way to get weekly exposure to new and old shoegaze bands. Clicking on the links will take to you to a wealth of info about the bands and their labels, the sites to buy and hear the music, and more! Check out the first and second Top 5 posts for previous recommendations! Keep gazing!

*Danny's Top 5 Shoegaze/Dream Pop Records of the Week*

1. Harold Budd & Brian Eno. Ambient 2: The Plateaux Of Mirror. Virgin Records. (2004)

2. Velochrome. Velochrome EP. Studio 4FF. (2010)

3. Bliss.City.East/Vidulgi Ooyoo. Split EP. Fake Label Recordings. (2010)

4. Lilys. In the Presence of Nothing. Slumberland Records. (1992)

5. Ulrich Schnauss. A Strangely Isolated Place. City Centre Offices Records. (2003)

*Amber's Top 5 Shoegaze/Dream Pop Records of the Week*

1. Wild Nothing. Gemini. Captured Tracks. (2010)

2. Rocketship. A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness. Slumberland Records. (1996)

3. Seinking Ships. Museum Quality Capture. S-Curve Records. (2010)

4. Movietone. Movietone. Geographic Records. (2003)

5. Bell Hollow. Foxgloves. Five03 Records. (2007)

Interview: Ulrich Schnauss.

We had the recent honor of interviewing the esteemed Ulrich Schnauss for When The Sun Hits. His body of work has been vastly influential to the current state of shoegaze and dream pop, but his notoriety and sound reach far beyond only this genre. Deeply rooted in electronica, ambient, drum and bass, and IDM, Ulrich is an elegant electronic composer of unparalleled talent, creating highly lauded albums such as A Strangely Isolated Place and Goodbye. He is equally well known for his work with other musicians, remixes, and various other stellar contributions to the music world. We consider Mr. Schnauss to be an artist of incomparable caliber, and are truly thrilled to have him appear on When The Sun Hits.

1. Can you tell us what you've been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (recording, tour, etc)?

We've just finished the new Engineers album (to be released in October) - besides that I've been concentrating on my next solo album.

Other recent projects include:

- a soundtrack with Mark Peters (Engineers)
- collaboration of songs with All in the Golden Afternoon as well as A
Shoreline Dream
(some of these will appear on an upcoming "Rocketgirl" compilation)
- a collaboration album with Kirsty Hawkshaw - been working on this for a while - just a few songs missing now...
- a few more one-off collaboration projects that I can't announce yet...

2. What sort of set up/gear do you use? What is the most important piece of gear for your "shoegaze" sound?

For creating the basic sounds I use a range of synthesizers (vintage and current) and effects units - once these core sounds are recorded into the computer I do some additional treatment using various plug-ins (a lot of granular stuff usually).

My all time favourite instrument is the Octave Plateau Voyetra 8; my favourite effect would be the Publison DHM 89 B2.

3. What shoegaze bands/artists(or whoever) have most influenced your work?

Two particular songwriters come to my mind: Andrew Sherriff and Emma Anderson. Both have a really unique way of writing chords - elegantly alternating between major and minor harmonies in a phrase. Sonically my favourite shoegaze record is Slowdive's Souvlaki - in my opinion one of the best produced contemporary albums in general. A
beautifully warm, harmonically rich sounding record that makes generous use of modulation (flanging) and reverb/delay effects - perfect!

4. Tell us a little about what you are currently into (bands, books,
films, etc)?

My favourite director is Michael Haneke - "The White Ribbon" is probably the best movie I've seen in a long time. I don't have enough time to read - if I do manage to check out some stuff it's usually non-fiction. The last book I read was Goetz Aly's
Unser Kampf - a (from a left wing point of view) painful but necessary critique on totalitarian and antisemitic tendencies in the contemporary German protest movement.

As far as music goes I listen to a fairly wide range of stuff - right at the moment I'm enjoying some 80s reissues (Japan, Propaganda), early 90s dance and electronica, Norwegian bands such as Serena Maneesh or Motorpsycho, electronic composers such as Bernard Parmegiani - the list is endless...

5. Can we expect to see you on the road in the near future (other than the current tour with Chapterhouse)?

Yes, definitely around the time the next album comes out - there's no actual date yet but it shouldn't be too long from now.

6. Do you consider what you are doing to fall within the genre of "shoegaze"?

It's certainly very strongly influenced by the first generation shoegaze bands - part of the music that I grew up with. At the same time there's other influences which are just as present (90s electronica) or even more important (Tangerine Dream). Generally i'm ok with using the "shoegaze" tag cause it gives people a realistic idea on what to expect but I'm hoping that I'm not limited to a too narrow sound.

7. What do you think of modern "shoegaze/dream pop" artists, any favourites?

I generally find the American stuff the most interesting as those bands seem to use "shoegaze" elements as one thing among others to create something new rather than trying to sound exactly like a band would have did in 1991. I find the current hype around all things shoegaze even a bit irritating in a way - reminds me a bit of what
happened to dance music in the 90s. Rather than a situation in which the people who have worked hard on reinventing this sound even when no one else was interested finally get some recognition we seem to be witnessing a scenario where a lot of insubstantial trendy types (the Horrors etc.) cash in on other people's efforts - just the way it usually goes I guess...

8. What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?

I consider myself to be a Marxist - one of the most important aspects of this is for me to recognize that the problems we face trying to organize human life (which is what the word "society" usually describes) are not caused by the individual "evilness" of specific people or groups. Corporations, hedge funds or even record companies are not to be critized from a "moral" perspective - they just function exactly the way they should according to the capitalist logic. So the problem is that we're dealing with an abstract "enemy" or opponent (the political or social "system" if you want to say so).

I'm saying this as I find the current political landscape quite frustrating - usually we're just given the choice between two foul options: those who are well off fight to protect the capitalist status quo including all its classist injustices - on the other side there's a deeply reactionary protest movement that flirts with religious fundamentalism, antisemitism and anti-western resentments. I still hope that people will one day understand that things can only change if we fight for a different objective foundation (no private ownership of the means of production) of how we organize society as this will always determine the consciousness even of the very individual - hopefully bringing us a step closer to an "association of the free" rather than destroying even the insufficient freedoms we have in this world.