Sheer – “Stutter”
From The Native Sound:
A year and a half since the release of their debut album, and two member changes later, Sheer are back.
With their new EP Psychic Quarry, Sheer embrace a change that finds the band at their most relaxed and inspired. While their debut LP Uneasy introduced the band as one with a kinship for dreamy, reverb-induced soundscapes, Psychic Quarry is a much more catchy, and indie rock-informed affair.
The six songs on Psychic Quarry cover a lot of ground – feelings of anxiety and depression, the vulnerability of intimacy, and even the post-election shock many of found ourselves coping with.
Stutter isn’t a single. I don’t know that it’s really a thing to share here in this space. I really like this band. Psychic Quarry is a great record. It came out back in April, and I probably should have talked about it then.
Anyway, go grab the damn thing.
The Native Sound
One of the downsides to being a shitty 30 year old is that I remember the 90s. This has made the latest trend of bands playing 90’s alternative influenced music a bit challenging. It’s music I’m hyper familiar with, as it was music I grew up with. I definitely have blindspots, but those have been filled in over the years. Bands like Sheer are really interesting to me. I see what they are doing, and it hits all the marks I want to see a band hit. They manage to take influence without being derivative and repetitive.
Coming strong right out the gate, Sheer play shoegaze/dream pop filtered through fuzzy alternative. There are similarities to bands like Lush and Galaxie 500. There is some Jesus And Mary Chain and The Breeders in there too. They take those influences and put their own heart behind it. Uneasy, as a record, is a great melding of the past and the present. But, that is really a roundabout way of describing sound. More simply, there is a great mixture of dense, thick guitars and more delicate, melodic ones. The guitar never gets too heavy on the old shoegaze shimmer. The sound is more reverb/distortion heavy than it is clean and swirling. Outside of that, there aren’t too many additional effects being used. “Orion” is probably the best example of things. The songs has a very powerful and dense build, it then hits a very melodic tone. The song shifts between the two extremes in a really great way. The vocals are also a strong selling point to me. Gina Almaguer has a great voice, and she can shift from strong/clear to the more genre standard “ethereal” vocals pretty seamlessly.
Sheer needs to get a lot of credit for making such a well worn genre sound crisp and clear. Gina Almaguer and Sean Sakamoto absolutely nail things on the guitar front. Anthony Quintero on bass and Jules Leon on drums keep everything on point and driving along. Uneasy is a record that shows a band working as a cohesive unit to make music that can get a bit loose and messy in less knowledgeable hands.
This is a record that has endless appeal to fans of all kinds of music. It takes a little from alternative, indie, shoegaze, and classic left-of-the-dial bands. It’s great, don’t sleep on it.
The Native Sound
Kristina Esfandiari has been responsible for some of my favorite music this year. She just released an EP earlier this year, Halloween Dream, as Miserable. Now, as King Woman, we have the Dove / Fond Affections cassette single. It’s her second release under the King Woman moniker. It really reinforces the idea that she is a wellspring of creativity. While she is still best known from her days in Whirr, it’s her solo material that is really worth noting. It is going to be interesting, no matter what it’s released as. She is able to conceptualize music in a way that goes beyond most shoegaze/post-punk/post-rock/whatever. If those genres are built around creating moods in a non-conventional way, then she is one of the best out there right now.
There are a lot of similarities between King Woman and Miserable. This isn’t surprising considering the nature of the projects. Both have very drawn out, ethereal vocals. Both deal heavily in effects and non-traditional music. But, and this is very important, the overall way those pieces fit is very different. Miserable took a more traditional shoegaze sound and beefed it up by including some very dense, heavy music. King Woman deals more in ethereal psychedelia, with some post-punk and psych-folk added for flavor.
There are two songs on the new single. One is an original, one is a cover. The A-side, Dove, spans 15 minutes. It adds a new dimension to what King Woman does. It is a drawn out, slow-burn of a song. It feels more similar to her work as Miserable than it does her earlier King Woman songs. It is expansive and atmospheric. It never gets as dense as Miserable did, but it maintains some of the power. It’s a hauntingly beautiful song.
The B-side is a cover of Rema-Rema’s “Fond Affections.” The King Woman version that appears here is closer to the cover This Mortal Coil did than it is to the original (kind of). It’s a hell of a cover though. While remaining pretty true to the post-punk origins of it, this particular cover is has more a drone influence. It’s moody and engaging in all the best ways.
In fact, “engaging in all the best ways” is a great way to sum up this release as a whole. It is a must listen for anyone who likes their music ambient, unconventional, and experimental. Grab this while you can.**
The Native Sound
**As a result of being out on The Native Sound, this is a very limited release if you want it on a physical format. In this case, it’s a cassette with a limited run of 150. If that is something you’re interesting in, better act fast. Otherwise, you’re going to have to get it digitally.**
The first thing I noticed about Halloween Dream is how much beauty and soul there is on the record. While Kristina Esfandari is constantly getting the ex-Whirr tag, her solo material is strong enough to kill that talking point. As a solo artist, as Miserable, she’s made one of the most engaging records I’ve heard in quite some time.
Halloween Dream is record that shows how “atmospheric” doesn’t always mean “light.” Esfandari’s ethereal vocals weave beautifully in and out of reverb heavy, distorted music. When playing this type of music, it’s easy to use the production as a crutch. The denseness can cover up songwriting deficiencies, the reverb, delays, and distortion can make boring music sound less boring. That’s why it’s great when you hear it done right.
It’s easy to get lost in the music. It’s easy to put a record like this on, and just let it take over. One of my favorite parts of the record is how, even without actively listening to the lyrics, you can tell exactly what is going on. Esfandari projects so much with just her vocal delivery. You can hear the emotion, desire, and regret in these songs.
I feel bad calling this just an “insert whatever genre” record. To call it just one thing or another feels too narrow. It can be ambient and melodic in one part, then fucking heavy and dense in another. If I had to call it something, I’m not sure what i’d say. Metallic shoegaze with post-rock flair? Sure, why the fuck not? It’s beautiful.
The Native Sound