Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Airs - "Rainclouds Over the Remains of Hope" (2011) [Music Ruins Lives]
This whole new "post-rock/shoegaze" phase through which black metal is going is pretty interesting. I mean, bands like Alcest and the Neige family, Frail, and the lesser-known (at least, for now) Ekpyrosis are all good bands with wonderful atmospheres, but at the same time they don't really bring about the whole "shoegazer" element, rather taking the whole layered, effects-ridden aesthetic of the subgenre and that's about it. Not that there's anything wrong with that means of execution, by any means, but it's people need to remember the lighthearted, alternative rock stylings of what shoegaze was back in its heyday, with such upbeat releases as Catherine Wheel's "Ferment", My Bloody Valentine's "Feed Me With Your Kiss EP", and even Slowdive's "Souvlaki" has some upbeat, albeit bittersweet, moments. This whole concept has been kind of a source of frustration, because though "shoegaze black metal" is enjoyable...it isn't really "shoegazey," if that makes sense.
Hopefully as frustrated as I am with that discrepancy within the scene, Airs has veritably broken the conceptual mold of the subgenre and brought about a truly unique experience. Their first official full-length with the addition of Xio on vocals, "Rainclouds Over the Remains of Hope" shows that Airs has come quite a long way from mainman Verwüstung's humble, instrumental beginnings earlier this year.
Lost in a sea of washed-out, slightly fuzzy guitars and ethereal voices (that's right, no harsh vocals here, kids!) over what appear to be electronic, though fitting, drums, Airs offers what is definitely shoegaze, but distinctly black metal. With songs that move between blasting beneath almost-Thom-Yorke-like vocals and bouncing alternative rock, reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins's masterpiece, "Siamese Dream," this duo proves that you can wear your patch-covered, crusty black metal jacket over your knit argyle vest and be okay with it. Sure, it's "hip" to like shoegaze nowadays, but does anyone really care anymore? This album is as enjoyable as it is unique, and I can definitely see Airs going places in the near future, hopefully showing Xasthur fans that "Portal of Sorrow" isn't a goddamn shoegaze album.
Favorite song off the album? "Joyless" for sure. If you can't crack a smile whilst listening to this and reminisce about childhood summers in faded, grainy film, then you're a terrible person.
Oh geez, this is my first review of a 2011 release...I guess I should really get going on my top 10 list for this year, eh?
PS) This album is free for download from their bandcamp, but you SHOULD preorder it from Music Ruins Lives and support both Thom and Airs!