In an article on contemporary art I came across an evocative sentence, alluding to art works that “seem to re-immerse the tangibility of memory in processes of erasure and abstraction”. The idea seemed intriguing because we often think about art as doing the exact opposite – making memory tangible by summoning and highlighting it and giving it concrete form. It also struck me as a pretty good description of what shoegaze music does, as four quite divergent recent examples demonstrate, in the process also blurring the differences between such dissimilar places as the northern cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Berlin, and the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv.
The Cherry Wave, “Crashing”, from Shimaru LP
Pointillist impressions of a rainy city. Echoey vocals looming through foggy double-glazed windows, blurred by raindrops and tears. Traces of a past evaporating into the cold of building gloom, getting lost in reflections as clouds form around the hiding sun. Dinosaur Jr.-type noncommittal exuberance. Layers of distortedly reverberating guitars. Snow slips of crushingly bent strings and rolling drums. The rubbed-out anatomy of a crash.
Wozniak, “Perihelion”, from Perihelion EP
From the hiding sun to the perihelion – the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid or comet where it is nearest to the sun. A disappearance not through wet dissolve, but by hazy over-exposure. Crispy drums and groovy bass are gradually obscured by a sprawling and torn guitar sound. The sweet, gender-indeterminate vocals seem enveloped in a film of mist. Then they are simply gone, and for another four minutes the song continues to combustingly pile up, rip, implode and unravel away.
Laila, “SpaceMan”, from I’ve Been LP
This is the third single from the Tel Aviv duo’s eagerly-awaited first album, which has just been released. It starts and ends with disarming whiffs of vocals drifting wordlessly through outer space. It sounds like early Cat Power thrown from Southern-US/Downtown-NYC surroundings into boundless intergalactic orbit. It tells a troubled love story obliquely smudged by smoke, sex, confusion, scars, swirling distant harmonies and dense and cathartic guitars.
Vaadat Charigim, “Shalom Lach Berlin”
The first few bars set us up for some U2/Simple Minds Eighties windswept grandeur, yet though the vocals are relatively prominent in the mix, they are so reluctantly articulated that we soon find ourselves in introvert, gloomily abstract territory. The terse Hebrew lyrics make more sentiment than sense, even for this native speaker. Strangely combining both drive and despondency, the song revs lonelily between Berlin and Tel Aviv, grey foliage and blinding glare, staying and running away; it seems to be chasing an elusive memory, but never ends up finding its place.