2014 has arguably been the best year for shoegaze in the last two decades. The reformation of bands such as Ride and Slowdive has proven the public still has a taste for “the scene that celebrates itself”, whilst the emerge of ‘nu-gaze’ has afforded bands such as Whirr a popularity they may not have enjoyed otherwise. What’s certain though, is that music is cyclical, and shoegaze, in whatever guise, is very much enjoying a revival.
St. Petersburg’s Pinkshinyultrablast are a band who fall, albeit somewhat awkwardly, in to the latter category, though have been around notably longer than the aforementioned Whirr, and take their cues from such genre royalty as Lush or of course, My Bloody Valentine. However, whilst the band’s earlier releases (Happy Songs for Happy Zombies) might well wear their influences proudly on the sleeves of their flannel shirts, their latest offering Everything Else Matters subverts expectations, combining icy electronics and shimmering vocals with the more conventional staples of the genre.
Take ‘Umi’ for instance, the first track to be previewed from the record. Guitar and synth work as one, creating a glassy surface on which the ethereal vocals glide effortlessly atop, encased in a washed out production which serves to heighten the feeling of limitless expanse created by the track. Perhaps the only real weight is provided by the drums, which, somewhat out of character for the genre, act as the relentless driving force behind ‘Umi’ and are yet another reason why Pinkshinyultrablast aren’t just another shoegaze band.
‘Glitter’ is a further example, and sees the band’s quintessential etherealism sparkle like its namesake, before a grungy, Cocteau Twins-inspired riff marks the beginning of an eviscerating climax that builds to an all-encompassing wall of noise, which despite its aggression, still doesn’t melt the record’s icy veneer.
The very definite feeling of forward motion and momentum that Everything Else Matters upholds is something that’s difficult to ignore, too. Whilst a lot of shoegaze bands drift on amorphous sonic waves, with little direction of which to speak, Pinkshinyultrablast have an almost tidal ebb and flow behind them; drums and synth forcing each track forward, the delicate, lavishly reverbed vocals pulling them back in moments of brief restraint. And it works perfectly, creating a dichotomy of weight and weightlessness that never once feels overwrought or underwhelming. Even on ‘Ravestar Supreme’, arguably the record’s most polarising track in terms of it’s composition, manages to get the balance inch perfect.
Everything Else Matters really is a record of glacial proportions, the size and weight of the tracks contained therein are matched only by the band’s determination to set themselves apart from the indie scene in St. Petersburg. Unlike the slow rate at which glaciers usually move however, Everything Else Matters works like a glacial surge, tearing towards the record’s conclusion with more purpose and direction than many of their contemporaries or indeed influences could muster. It may be one of the year’s first releases, but I’m guessing Everything Else Matters will end up on more than a handful of ‘Best of…’ lists this time next year.