Review Summary: Stagnation
Merely two years since the release of their debut, and shoegaze duo Stagnant Pools are already living up to their name. While Temporary Room
was by no means a great album, suffering from formulaic structures and repetitive tonalities, it did possess certain defining characteristics that made it enjoyable and consistently engaging. Each song was repetitive, but never to a fault. In fact, over the course of Temporary Room
, it was difficult not to fall into a trance as uplifting psychedelic melodies unravel themselves in the midst of heavy drum patterns and noisy static. Where Temporary Room
lacked in depth, it made up for in creativity, paving the way for a follow-up that would flesh-out the band’s many ideas and offer something significantly more substantial. Unfortunately, Geist
, the band’s sophomore release, seems to have a different agenda.
A misstep in practically every way, Geist
has Stagnant Pools taking a noisier and more simplistic approach to their music. The approach results in an ugly, cacophonous mess that not only retains the faults of its predecessor, but actually worsens
those faults tenfold. The album’s sound is simply dull, hindered considerably by its terrible production. Here, guitars sound utterly lifeless, and instrumentation is loud and harsh. The most notable issue with album’s production, however, are the vocals. While Brian Enas’s vocal approach was rather bland on Temporary Room
, his voice always had a rhythm to it that served to texturize the gorgeous melodies. Here, however, his vocals have been significantly turned up in volume to the point where his voice is louder than every other instrument. Although his vocals are equally as lifeless as the tone of the guitars, they are shoved into the foreground of the music, causing the instruments in the background to form a wall of discordant noise on songs such as “Filed Down” and “Dots and Lines.” The biggest change on this album from the band’s debut is its pacing. Each song has been slowed down, and is mostly devoid of tempo changes. The slow, boring pace Stagnant Pools have chosen to adopt only highlights the album’s most obvious issue: its repetition. There is little to no structural or tonal variation over the course of the album. Each song begins in near-exactly the same fashion, and seems to drag endlessly as more layers and textures are piled up. Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad if the instrumentation didn't lack creativity or inspiration of any sort. Drum patterns are generic and alternate little as a track progresses, and the soundscapes throughout the album are so devoid of color that the individual melodies of each song are easily forgotten once it ends. Each song is so similar that differentiating between tracks on Geist
is quite a difficult task, making the album so boring to sit through that its meager length of thirty-two minutes feels nearly tripled.
It is staggering to believe that Geist
is genuinely the follow-up to Temporary Room
. Between its subpar production and dull instrumentation, the entire album plays out like an old demo compilation that does nothing more than hint at the band’s potential. To point out the flaws on Geist
is simply to state the flaws of its predecessor; Stagnant Pools show no willingness to improve, and seem entirely content to live up to their name.