Tuesday 15 October 2013

Under The Wire - Existential

Album review by kev@thesoundofconfusion.co.uk

If Ty Segall is the most prolific man in the world of garage music (and now proto-metal with his Fuzz project), and Darren Hayman is the most prolific man in the world of British indiepop (also branching out into ancient folk music), then the most prolific man in the world of shoegaze and associated genres is Tom Lugo. The name may not be familiar as he doesn't release under a solo guise, but you might have heard of some of his other bands such as ShiShi, Stellarscope, Panophonic, Drowning Dreams, SUPER TOYS and being a leading part of the team behind Patetico Records. So he's got he work cut out essentially, and we're not talking an album or single every couple of years, these bands release music almost constantly, and there's no sign of slowing down. If anything then the opposite is the case. Teaming up with electronics whiz Jason Ellis of Black Tomb, this duo only formed last Christmas. A month later and their first demo went public, a version of 'We Are Infinite', the song which opens up this debut mini-album.

Shoegaze is often tied to dreampop and the music created is soft, smooth and warm. That's exactly how the intro to 'We Are Infinite' sounds, but 'Under The Wire' want to push the sound away from the crowded scene that's build up over recent years, so the vocals are shaper, urgent, almost acerbic even. With 'Existential' it could be that Under The Wire want to keep these wonderfully lush sounds but give them an edge that's often missing from other band's work, and when it is there it's done using overdriven guitars and harsher effects pedals. 'My Death My Ballad' is razor sharp, but in a more complex way. The beats are a mixture of industrial and machine gun electronics; the guitar is caustic but doesn't simply envelop the song in fuzz, there are actual lead-guitar melodies being used. They're not following the crowds, that's for sure. The soaring synths of 'Bloom' are kept hidden in the background whereas other dreampop proponents would have thrust them to the front and allowed the song to soar, but that would be too easy. Instead the lyrics take the lead, and anyone familiar with the styles of music in question will be all too aware that lyrics are often hidden in the middle of the mix and not always decipherable. No such problems here. This is intense and it's clear; that little bit of magical synth just adds to the mysterious wonder.

The title-track is perhaps the most cutting of all, making you think of A Place To Bury Strangers of their counterparts, the underrated Ceremony. Scree is the order of the day, and again the beats are more like a military training exercise than something from a Beach House record. This time the lyrics are absent, leaving the music to grab the spotlight on its own. 'Third Wave' fits into a similar category; uncomfortable yet oddly comforting. The influences to Under The Wire, the records the two guys have in their collection, will probably include a few classics of the genre from twenty years ago or more. The closest they come to producing a sound that could be from the past is on 'Losing Control', and that's only fleeting as the production ensures this remains largely bang up-to-date. They close with 'Drone Attack'; the title alone has a double meaning. There's the much publicised (and highly controversial) US military program of flying unmanned aircraft on reconnaissance or bombing missions, and also the reference to the drone-rock that has also been a key factor in the development of this album. "Attack" seems like too hard a word for the song; it is the closest they come to drone, but the overall impact is much softer and ends the album on a lighter note than some of the abrasive noise we've already experienced. It's one thing being prolific, but it's a whole different challenge to keep the standard as high as these two have managed here.

Under The Wire's website

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