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There's probably a reason why shoegaze never achieved widespread musical acceptance. The swirling, trippy waves of sound over the distant vocals and drums that were often more faint pulse than propulsive pop beat created a genre that would be beloved by few, but never embraced by many. As one of the blessed few who love the shoegaze sound, I was incredibly excited by Lightfoils' new EP, Chambers, which perfectly captures classic shoegaze.
Shoegaze came out of England and Lightfoils comes out of Chicago, but you wouldn't detect anything particularly American about the band. Singer Jane Zabeth Nicholson's dreamy vocals are the sonic equivalent of Vasoline over a camera lens, taking an image just slightly out of focus. Her voice is similarly, and beautifully, out of focus, preventing her voice from being tethered to a particular geography.
Instrumentation is also an important part of shoegaze, and Lightfoils deliver there, too. Guitarists Neil Yodnane and Zeeshan Abbasi deploy the feedback, distortion, and tremolo characterizing the ethereal sound, although Lightfoils does play with cleaner guitar sounds in interesting ways.
The clean tones are in play on "Duende," which has folk-influenced, almost-Spanish melody emerging from a chorus-laden guitar. Nicholson's voice hangs over the track like a mist while dueling guitars chime and John Rungger's drums ever-so-gently push the track along.
"Summer Nights" also has clean tones, built upon a low-key tremolo-y riff that almost phases in and out of time. But not time as in beat, but rather time as in chronology. The song, with its beautiful melodies and crystal-clear drums, gets stronger and more focused over an epic eight minutes, and while it never becomes a straight-ahead rock song, it does become more of a rock song.
Great shoegaze, like My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus and Mary Chain, can be liberating. Instead of focusing on notes and beats, the listener becomes wrapped up in sonic textures. It's not so much about a song, so much as it's about creating an almost-secret-yet-complete world.
Lightfoils have built a beautiful, sonically gauze-hazed environment in just five songs (and just over half an hour). Listeners who missed the first wave of shoegaze in the 1990s, or simply miss the sound today, should give Lightfoils a chance.
Notable Tracks: "Duende" | “Honeydew” | "Summer Nights"