Review Summary: A great cover, a great band name, and some really good tunes help propel this EP into good standing amongst its shoegazing peers for 2010.
Okay, so let's get this out of the way right off the bat. This may be the most attractive cover for an album released all year, but I suppose we can thank Nicole Kidman for that and not just Whirl.
With that said, let's get to the actual album itself. Distressor
is the debut EP released by North California shoegaze band, Whirl. After receiving some acclaim over their demo tape earlier this year, Whirl decided to give it a go right away, and that is what this effort is. And for a first effort, oh man, how really wonderful it is.
The good-sized EP kicks off right away with an introduction to their sound of sorts in Preface
, with Nicole Kidman whispering a sampled line of dialogue from Eyes Wide Shut
over fuzzy, circa-1988 guitars. For an introduction, it works fairly well, and we find the album moving quite steadily along into the much more structured, these-guys-have-definitely-been-listening-to-a-lot-of-Slowdive
. It was originally one of the songs to make it from the demo tape, and here it gets a nice refurbished touch. The tune is fairly memorable, assisted in large part by the band's faded-out, male-female vocals giving it some traction.
, the EP gives way to Blue
, a much heavier track that puts large focus on the pounding drums -- which, for a shoegaze song, is rather refreshing. Again, we have the traditional male-female vocals wailing away in the background behind the quite noisy feedback-laden guitars. However, it should be pointed out that the vocals Whirl provides aren't strictly of the My Bloody Valentine
strain, for all their other influence. Instead of just whispering the vocals sleepily a'la MBV, Whirl actually puts a lot of effort into passionately singing the vocals, and this ends up making the EP sound very sincere.
The melancholy is increased in Ghost
, which is a shining example that there are good song structure melodies hidden beneath all the warm noise. The only lyric I discerned out of the vocals on this track was "stay with me," but that's enough to capture your heart with tunes like this. Meaningless
kicks off with a much quicker tempo, and it sounds as if My Bloody Valentine decided to cooperate with Sonic Youth
for a noiser and faster-paced version of "Teen Age Riot," which sounds rather great if you were ever curious, as Whirl doesn't hesitate to point out.
, very next on the line-up, is the most directly My Bloody Valentine-influenced track on the EP. At the start and at the end, it quickly reminds of "Only Shallow" from the classic Loveless album, but between, for the remainder of the track, it doesn't contain much memorable flavor to it. Closing the EP out, we enter the phenomenal Sandy
to the sound of an acoustic guitar coming in, quite unexpected this far into the game. But have no fear, if you are still craving fuzzy guitars they come in soon after to join the acoustic, and a rather front-and-center female vocal track does much to give the track something original. This progresses for about 5 minutes, quietly ending the EP to the sounds of waving ambience.
For a first effort, Distressor is certainly promising. In an age where shoegaze is seemingly making a come-back of sorts, after listening to this EP, a new talent seems to have arisen to join the ranks of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
and Asobi Seksu
. Whirl has made a very listenable debut.
However, while the EP is a fairly solid and very enjoyable listen, with some stand-out tracks, it does have some drawbacks. Firstly, and perhaps most easy to spot, is this EP has very little originality to add to the genre. Yes, yes, a little much to expect with a first release, so we can hold out hope the second one has more of a spark of ingenuity to it. Secondly, a good amount, if not most, of the songs on this EP are rather static. They don't really grow, or change, and while it's nice and certainly enjoyable to listen to, a more focused and varied approach may do Whirl's future release some good.
With all that being said, I would certainly recommend this pleasant listen to fans of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, or Sonic Youth. While borrowing much from what has come before, it gives hints here and there (Leave
) of refreshing breaths of new air into the genre of shoegaze. Especially recommended for late-night listening!
Whirl's new release Distressor
can be listened to for free here: http://whirl.bandcamp.com/album/distressor