Thursday, March 5, 2009

Barefoot and Stargazing: Pooma's Persuader and Kingsbury's Lie to Me

Shoegaze, or as it's also known, dreampop, is one of those genres that when done not so well, is pretty tedious and self-indulgent, but when done really well, can sound more like star gazing than shoegazing. Having said this, I will now introduce two bands who are doing more of the latter than the former: Finnish band Pooma and their debut album, Persuader, and Florida band Kingsbury and their new EP, Lie to Me. While both pieces are captivating, they come at the shoegaze genre from different ends of the spectrum and at different angles of the prism, so to speak.

Pooma's debut was produced and partly mixed by Gunnar Örn Tynes of the fantastic band Múm, and released in Finland last year. Unfortunately the band's Finnish record label was closed down very shortly after the release of the album, but you can still buy the entire album from iTunes if you visit their MySpace (link is provided at the end of the post). Persuader unfolds slowly to an intense beat by beginning with If May Starts Tomorrow, a song punctuated by fingers sliding against guitars strings and hypnotic female vocals. The song then crashes into a torrent of sound, thudding and misting around you like a waterfall. This is followed by Snow, which hums with crystalline strings and cymbals until you are buried in the cool aura of its epicentre. With faster rhythms and a more menancing tone, They Won't Come Back slinks along to a trip-hoppy beat before stripping down halfway through the song into a murmuring, static-filled wormhole; you come out into a fresh second half of the song with tribal rhythms and ethereal vocals. For the next track, Would You, vocals chant "You find it hard to breathe" until you are literally holding your breath in expectation of what happens next in the song; incidentally, it soars into twinkly dreamscapes and builds into an all-encompassing whorl of cloud.

January is a briefer track with subtle cracks of popping vinyl and otherworldly buzzing over simple piano chords; its simplicity is beautiful, and without any vocals, it takes on a brilliant enigmatic quality. Complex layers of sound come back for Through the Calm, which utilizes strings and glockenspiel-like accents to create a dark, undulating atmosphere that takes various unexpected twists and turns between dreamy and threatening; it is like a classical piece heard through an aural kaleidoscope. This blurs right into the title track of the record, a song which builds on the cacophony before disintegrating into a gentle, blissful rivulet of a tune; it takes yet another turn with a build to grandiose proportions with faster drums and dramatic brass. The mood shifts into a more placid one for The Shore, a track that slowly infuses your body like an incense, plying your brain with enchanting vocals. Two minutes before the conclusion of the song, you are woken with scattershot drums and an almost conquistador-like tone. Cool Inside comes down for a heartbeat of a rhythm and shimmers of reverb, an oasis for those sunburned by more abrasive music. The album ends with All Worked Out, the longest song on the record. It takes musicbox-like sounds and layers them over a rich backdrop of cello, creating a magnetic world of small wind storms and aurora borealis.

Kingsbury approaches shoegaze from a different side than Pooma; rather than create textures from shrouded vocals and dramatic symphonic shifts, Kingsbury anchors everything to a plaintive, graceful melodic line and creates a multi-faceted narrative with a rockier edge in the process. You can download the entire EP for free, along with two previous EPs and an album, at their Web site listed below.

EP instrumental opener, Ocarina Mountaintop, is majestic in its slow build of sonic layers with a foundation of piano; it emulates the mystical wistfulness and ancient flavour of the ocarina itself. Vocals come in for Back in the Orange Grove, a track that mimicks mournful wind in laden treetops; metallic knocks and echoes punctuate the ballad like distant thunder, or fists against the walls of a dream. The following track, As I See It, is a delicate tune of guitar arpeggios and hazy, breathy vocals, drifting along like parachutes of dandelion seed.

Bell tones open the next song, Armada, before abrupt pulses and scratches, along with what sounds like thousands of people running moistened fingers around the rims of wine glasses, consume it. The EP's title track moves into a more ominous tone as the narrator works through conflicting emotions about a lover; electric guitars slide and wail through the piece like pleading hands and eyes. It is a moody track that swings to a pendulum of self-induced hypnosis, trying to convince the self that everything will be okay if only the second person will say so. The EP concludes with Holy War a mesmerizing guitar-based track that weaves a mesmerizing spell as tightly-woven as a crusader's tapestry; the tension threatens to break every string until it unravels into a sea of feedback at the end.

Pooma's MySpace:
Pooma's Web site:

Kingsbury's MySpace:
Kingsbury Web site:

If May Starts Tomorrow - Pooma

Through the Calm - Pooma

Ocarina Mountaintop - Kingsbury

Holy War - Kingsbury


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