In June 2009, a hitherto-unknown Russian band called Pinkshinyultrablast put out a 4-track EP on Bandcamp. Happy Songs for Happy Zombies was well-executed classic Shoegaze that brought to mind the early work of Astrobrite – which makes sense, as the band is named after an Astrobrite album (although the sound of the EP is closer to Astrobrite’s debut, Crush, than Pinkshinyultrablast itself).
And then… nothing.
For the next 6 years, the 14-minute Happy Songs EP became a bit of a cult classic in Shoegaze circles. Lots of people raved about it, but no one really knew much (if anything) about the band behind it and where they’d disappeared to. It seemed like they’d go down in Shoegaze history as a one-EP wonder.
But then in November 2014, Club AC30 surprised us with the Pinkshinyultrablast single “Umi” and the news that a full-length would follow soon after. The bouncier, synthier “Umi” hinted that the band had expanded its sound in new directions since Happy Songs, and the full-length, Everything Else Matters, demonstrates a confidence and variety that might surprise listeners expecting and album full of classic ‘gaze.
The label’s band bio talks of “sharp, icy electronics” and makes reference to Cluster and Philip Glass, but I don’t hear much of that in the actual album. Yes, the band has brought a lot more electronics into their sound, but they haven’t abandoned guitars and noise completely, although they now share the musical space with a wide range of other tones and textures.
“Wish We Were” opens the album with a warm, synthy base that gets augmented with overlapping, multi-layered vocals that sound a bit like a cross between Elizabeth Fraser and Sinead O’Connor. And then the vocals drop out and synthetic percussion takes center stage, and it’s clear this isn’t another Happy Songs for Happy Zombies. It isn’t until 3-1/2 minutes into the song that we finally get the guitars I was expecting when I played this for the first time, and they lead us through the rest of the track.
“Holy Forest” opens with a repeating post-punky guitar figure that had me thinking of the short-lived Burning Airlines. Then a bit of 80’s-flashback synth guides us to the body of the song, which mixes electronics and noise over Lyubov’s lovely vocals (the band members each go by a single name). The song builds to a nice, noisy crescendo before passing us on to the Cocteau Twins-esque opening of “Glitter”, which, like “Holy Forest” switches gears mid-song and throws a layer of noisy guitars into the mix.
“Metamorphosis”, “Umi” and “Lands End” follow a similar theme, keeping listeners on their toes with repeated sonic and tonal shifts between guitars and electronics. “Ravestar Supreme” has the Shoegaziest opening on the album, but even here the band continues its strategy of alternating between fuzzy, buzzy passages and airy, ethereal stretches.
At nearly 9 minutes long, the closing “Marigold” mixes up melody with some fairly epic noise – a bit of chainsaw guitar here, some metal-esque guitar there, and 3 minutes of humming fuzz to close out the album. From beginning to end, the album’s 8 tracks show us a band with a strong grasp of song construction and a desire to keep from getting pigeonholed into a single genre label. I’ll admit that the first time through it, I found myself wishing for more full-on ‘gaze, but once I let go of my preconceptions and expectations, I was impressed by what the band had managed to do across the span of 44 minutes.
Club AC30 has given the band a warm welcome back to the world of recording. In addition to the album and its preceding single, the label has released two EPs: Holy Forest adds a non-album cut and three remixes to the title track, and Ravestar Supreme contains the album version and two remixes. The label’s site doesn’t offer digital downloads, and Holy Forest is completely sold out there, but you can find all three releases at Amazon, iTunes, and eMusic.
By phil locke