Friday, May 4, 2012

lovesliescrushing - "Shiny Tiny Stars" (2012) [Handmade Birds Records]

Over the past twenty-one years, Scott Cortez has proven himself to be the Western hemisphere's answer to Kevin Shields and Neil Halstead, crafting at times poppy, but always ethereal guitar constellations with an arsenal of effects pedals and a keen ear for sound sculpture with his projects lovesliescrushing and Astrobrite. With lovesliescrushing, Cortez teams up with vocalist Melissa Arpin-Duimstra and arms himself with chopsticks, violin bows, forks, knives, vibrators (take that, Dave Navarro!), and any other object he deems necessary to create a perfect, astral atmosphere. Though Cortez's approach and shifting sound can be deemed similar to guitarist Kevin Shields's extreme layering with My Bloody Valentine, lovesliescrushing's 1994 debut, bloweyelashwish, showed an abstraction in the then-young genre, foregoing the upbeat pop song for rich ambiance and dreamy textures. With a handful of limited releases and seven full-length albums to their name, Cortez and Arpin-Duimstra "return" with their latest offering, Shiny Tiny Stars.

I put "return" in quotes because, well, this technically isn't a new lovesliescrushing album. Deemed their "lost first album," Shiny Tiny Stars features some of Cortez and Arpin-Duimstra's earliest collaborations, dating all the way back to the band's first year of existence. Why wait so long? Honestly, I'm not sure (I'll be asking Scott about it soon), but this material needed to see the light of day. For diehard fans expecting the grating, distorted euphoria of "babysbreath" and "Glimmer," a surprise is definitely in store. Undoubtedly Cortez's most mellow work, the clean, shimmering sounds of Shiny Tiny Stars sounds more like a sonic predecessor to Liz Harris's Grouper fourteen years before the fact rather than the noisepop syrup they pioneered a mere three years later. In the pre-distortion pedal era, lovesliescrushing was a different kind of calm. Rather than a neon-bright mushrooms and cough syrup daze, Cortez's guitars melded into soft wisps of cloud pillows while Arpin-Duimstra sang the most distant of quaalude lullabies. It's damn near sonic perfection, and, in my current state of sleepiness, it's proving very difficult to write about such a wonderfully relaxing album. I can feel my heartbeat begin to slow as my eyes become heavy with every new, magnificent volume swell and vocal glissando. This is the kind of music which has a legitimate, physical effect on you, and the fact that Cortez and Arpin were able to achieve such sonic beauty at a young age (I believe Cortez was around nineteen at the beginning of the Shiny Tiny Stars sessions) is a commendable feat. Let the sepulchral sounds of lovesliescrushing enfold you.

It is a rare opportunity to catch such an in-depth glimpse at the formative works of such quiet, influential musicians as Scott Cortez and Melissa Arpin-Duimstra. With the lovesliescrushing name already as important as it is in its own circles, the canonical nature of Shiny Tiny Stars makes it one of the most important releases you can own. Though it is quite different from its consequential "successors," the quiet sounds on Shiny Tiny Stars are merely another face of lovesliescrushing, a step on their path to immortality. This is true, sleepy beauty in sound form. Expect more new material from lovesliescrushing later this year. Shiny Tiny Stars will begin shipping within the next few days from Handmade Birds.


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