Let’s ignore the fact that I appear totally unable to liberate the giant new electro opus by The Magnetic Fields from the turntable (it really is that good; fifteen songs all under three minutes in length that sidle up to the listener with all the enticing acidity that Stephen Merritt carries about his personality as a matter of course; in the same casual fashion that you or I would haul groceries home from the store, he can’t help but isolate the mechanics of relationship, the inert bitchiness behind relationship, and thus promote these aspects with a refined shrug of the shoulders)… next up is San Francisco band Moonbell.
Now, the default criticism of shoegaze is that it’s a strand of music lashed to template. That were you to strip away the predictable array of effects pedals from the wispy vocal, you’ll be left with something incapable of flight, something the thermals have rejected, just another Icarus in a sky full of stealth aviation. It’s an argument I can fully understand on a purely theoretical level (and several people whose opinions I otherwise respect have dismissed shoegaze in such a fashion) – yet the huge, multi-coloured but that always makes an appearance at this juncture is hewn from texture, individual components layered across each other in such a fashion that some kind of chemical reaction occurs (this isn’t the most effective summation of the shoegaze dynamic, but it’s one I cling to, good or ill – it’s all about effect, the end result, something that presses buttons long into widescreen flicker of the day-to-day, then long across the particular enticements of night).
Which is where Moonbell come in. Or at least where we pick up the story. Parallel, their latest EP, is a split release on American micro-labels Loglady / Deep Space Recordings, and comes packaged with previous output, the self-released Figurine – in part so that simple folk like myself, who think all-too frequently in terms of albums, can assimilate the tracks as distinct elements of the same LP. The allure here isn’t that derived from strident experimentation or the demarcation of virgin territory (indeed, the press release name-checks several mainstays of the oeuvre you’ll be able to recite without too much brain-strain); rather the execution arrives with pronounced panache, that sense of pushing forward within these set parameters to create an immense subjugation of aesthetic. To my ears this sounds firmly in league with Ride circa second album Going Blank Again, filtered through the mist and haze that regularly swoops past the Golden Gate Bridge like an invading army in clockwork mode… which might make for forced metaphor to most people, but constitutes elaborate praise in the LGM compound.
Moonbell / Figurine