Review Summary: i know you too well
When genres finally emerge from their formative stages and enter a classical period, there is usually either a single work, or a group of works, that can be considered “classics”. These classics define and display all the semantic and syntactic qualities of the genre, such that they are easily recognizable and exist in a wholly unique form in comparison to the works that influenced them. With this definition, it is entirely acceptable to say that My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless
is the genre defining shoegaze album to which all other works within the genre can be, and are, compared. It’s not simply that Loveless is the quintessential example of shoegaze, but its massive popularity means that it is also the most visible and recognizable album in the genre. Still, what is perhaps most interesting about Loveless isn’t its status as the quintessential shoegaze classic, but that, even though it routinely ends up on lists of the greatest rock albums of all time, it very nearly isn’t a rock album at all. Or, at least, isn’t a rock album as we know it.
That’s where Sweet Trip’s Velocity : Design : Comfort
comes in. If what Loveless
ended up doing with rock music was mutating it into something almost entirely foreign but still recognizable, then Velocity : Design : Comfort
is the final expansion of that idea, taking the spirit of Loveless
and adding just enough to tip it over the edge into the realm of something completely new. To put it simply, Loveless
is a rock album that doesn’t want to be a rock album. Velocity : Design : Comfort
is the extension of this idea to its ideological conclusion, and the result is an album that was created in the spirit of the rock legacy while being altogether alien at the same time. It is an album that finally takes “shoegaze” to a place it’s never been before, and the result is nothing less than revolutionary and stunning.
Sigmund Freud was the first to coin the term “unheimlich”, which in German translates to “unhomelike”. In English, we know this term as the uncanny, or the idea that things can exist which are unsettling simply because they are so precise, yet unknown at the same time. Velocity : Design : Comfort
is a perfect example of the uncanny in sounds. Humans are constantly bombarded by sounds from the second our ears form in a womb until we either die, or lose the ability to hear. We can close our eyes, shut our nose, deny ourselves taste, and avoid touch, but, of all the five senses, hearing is the most ubiquitous. We hear everything, everywhere, and most of it gets filtered out as background noise unless we focus specifically on the ubiquity of these sounds, which is especially noisy and synthetic in the landscape of a technological, post-industrial world. With Velocity : Design : Comfort
, Sweet trip have crafted a “rock music of the home”, an environmental soundscape which uses electronic approximations of industrial and domestic noises in place of rock instruments to create an uncanny valley of sound, recognizable structures and ideas that seem familiar in form but completely alien in timbre.
But Velocity : Design : Comfort
isn’t frightening or unsettling. Instead of focusing on the off-putting nature of the uncanny, Sweet Trip have crafted an album that is astonishingly beautiful, taking the synthetic, industrial sounds of domestic space and highlighting their contextual beauty. Traditional rock instruments show up at times, but are never anything more than ghosts of influence, kind of like turning on a television set and hearing the distorted phantoms of rock transmitted over analog radio frequencies. The back half of the album contains some of the most sublime and effective “shoegaze” music ever put onto a record, which is proof in-and-of-itself that Velocity : Design : Comfort
isn’t singularly focused on concept. It is still, at its heart, music, and because of that it is able to elevate it’s concept far above simply being an ideology, kind of like Loveless did all the way back in 1991.
Inheriting the spirit of My Bloody Valentine and doing far more than just being another genre piece, Velocity : Design : Comfort
should be considered a classic of the experimental phase of shoegaze music. The electronic noises and synthetic textures of Sweet Trip’s second full-length do what no other album in the twelve years between it and the release of Loveless
were able to do: take shoegaze and make it more than simply noisy rock music. It’s futuristic, dreamy soundscapes are totally removed from the world of reality, taking rock music out of its foundation in physical space and placing it in a realm of total imagination. Gone are the concert halls and music venues of music’s past. This is rock music for a digital, virtual world where the stage is your monitor and the soundsystem is your headphones. It is a brand new form of escapism, one where we no longer long for the events of the past, but the sounds of our experiences as well.