Review Summary: Like a looming raincloud ready to burst over a bright summer's day.
Holy Roar Records has become such a dependable and trusted label that when a band is signed to their roster you can bet the band weaves a unique or innovative contrast into the fabric of whichever core genre they have chosen. One of the music label’s more recent additions is Manchester/Belgium’s Slow Crush who, at their core, is a heavy shoegaze quartet. With that kind of brand, it’s difficult to review such a band without namedropping the obvious leaders of said genre whom every band in their wake bears some sort of semblance to: My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. However, there are a number of interesting and compelling features within Slow Crush’s hazy dreamlike sounds which separates them from any other run-of-the-mill downtempo bands.
There is a palpable sense of relaxation that this band oozes, for even before their audience has listened to any of this Slow Crush’s debut album, the band teases what kind of soundscape to expect within the track’s literal titles. Thus, each song on “Aurora”
, lays down a distinct vibe which corresponds to the imagery these literally-titled tracks would depict. “Shallow Breath” revolves around a riff that hyperventilates before giving way to long sighing melodies, meanwhile, across turbulent currents of dense grooves Isa Holliday’s translucent vocals glide graciously on the surface of “Drift”. In contrast, Slow Crush lull you into a false sense of security during “Collide” by way of incredibly spacious melodies, whereby you wait expectantly for some plummeting drop to literally ‘collide’, however, it never arrives. It’s at this point you realise that the word collide doesn’t dictate how much force is behind the impact. On this occasion, this collision of searching melodies and gentle drumming is no more forceful than a light brush.
Slow Crush is able to create a soothing, comfortable and safe sounding harmony of faint, rippling melodies and tender singing in every song of “Aurora” thanks to how balanced the mixing of Isa’s gossamer vocals and her bandmember’s rhythm sections in specific moments are throughout the album. Initially, her misty singing is indecipherable in tracks such as the ebbing “Glow” and the alluringly mysterious “Aid and Abet” which both reflects the band’s shoegaze influence. However, on repeated listens, her voice becomes less of a distant dream and more or a lucid experience. Alternatively, the anxious melodies and thrumming bass during “Tremble” dissolves, allowing her beautiful vocals to appear at their most wistfully vibrant- another way in which Slow Crush toys with your original expectations of what the song may sound like.
Contrary to its cushiony atmosphere, “Aurora”
has a distinct focus directed upon dazzling, pretty melodies, yearning and hopeful vocal lines and an overall sensitivity that anyone could appreciate. Complete with such a dreamy and illustrative soundscape, this debut album is a fantastic statement of intent, laden with enough hooks and enough deviation from typical shoegaze characteristics to render them (for want of a better term) different. Admittedly, those heavy shoegaze fans who long for the unique experiments which bands such as Møl, Alcest and Deafheaven undertake, which whisk you away into the stratosphere and beyond, may feel disappointed by the barefaced approach Slow Crush displays. Irrespective of how you like your shoegaze served, all can agree that Slow Crush has delivered a gorgeous debut album which is heavy like a large gloomy raincloud priming itself to burst, yet, simultaneously radiates warmth, comfort and safety.