Jaguwar - Ringthing

by Steve Rhodes Rating:7 Release Date:2018-01-12
Jaguwar - Ringthing
Jaguwar - Ringthing

Dream Pop and Shoegaze has enjoyed a new renaissance in mainland Europe, with Scandinavia and Eastern Europe leading the way with acts such as Westkust, Kimono Lights, School '94 and Pinkshinyultrablast, among others, producing excellent records over the past few years. It hasn't quite been as successful in Germany. Though leading artists Monoland and Malory have released several beautiful, blissed out, fuzzed records in the late 90s and into the following decade, both have been inconspicuous by their absences in recent times. Berlin's Jaguwar have begun the fill the void with two EPS released over the past two years, to mixed results, that strayed a little too close to the formulaic My Bloody Valentine tone bend template, an exception being the closing moments of 'Today' and it's deliriously hypnotic guitars. Their debut full-length Ringthing is a marked improvement, with swirling, harmonious melodies, tracks that carry far more of a punch, a regular variance in tone, and a renewed confidence that lingers on the mindset.

'Lunatic' creates an instant impression. Though the chiming guitars remain, the track is dominated by frenetic drumming, full of numerous 100mph+ rolls, as choral guitars and a central bass, similar in style to Fever Dream, propel the song along, as the vocals are set back in the mix. A pacy and powerful opener that leads into a choppy, but still busy outro, full of melodic endeavour, that recalls Flyying Colours at their best.

'Skeleton Feet' relaxes the pace a little, though the tempo still remains busy. The drums continue to make their presence known, if a little more set-back, as the guitars remain upbeat. Echoed vocals swirl into and out of the pop-focussed track, which still allows itself a few neat tricks in the deliberate treatments, especially the rumbling bass notes and distorted keys that infrequently appear but are a welcome addition.

The pace sometimes seems relentless, with percussion usually at the heart of everything, such as on the bouncy 'Crystal' as decayed loops burst into a good old homage to early Chapterhouse, as speedy drums and an acoustic guitar maintain the direction. Likewise 'Away' continues the busy tempo, retaining an acoustic guitar, but adding more choral reverb in the guitars, similar to The Away Days, as throbbing bass and background drums provide the support for both vocalists, whose different approaches (Oyemi's monotone, but focussed verses and Lemmy's more emotional and almost desperate-sounding choruses), complement each other well, reminding a little of Cults or Chastity Belt meets New Zealand's Secret Knives.

There are moments of respite from the lightning tempo to gather breath, though this sometimes exposes weaknesses. 'Gone' is sweet and cheerful, with Echo Lake a kindred spirit, especially in the deeply-relaxed chorus, but feels a little lifeless and safe, even with the Medicine-esque noise twinges that appear from time to time. 'Whales' is more yearning and lovelorn, but the drums are too high in the mix, often smothering the vocals and guitars, as the track struggles for a hook to cling on to.

Though this a modern album, with an obvious akinship to other recent dream-weavers, there is more than an appreciation of the Post-Punk, Alternative Pop and the Big Noise bands of the 80s. 'Night Out', with its high-end bass, feels like Altered Images meets The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart or Jane Wiedlin immersed in the tones of The Field Mice, with its sugar-coated melodies, C86 Drumming and wandering basslines. 'Week' sails very close to the breeze of Isn't Anything, especially in the way the guitar dynamics link with the chord progression, but it's 'Slow And Tiny' that's the best of these by far. Bar the opening expansive seconds this is a misleading title, as it's a huge sounding, anthemic tune. With an essence of Echo & The Bunnymen or The Cardiacs 'Is This The Life', and the spirit of Colm O Coisog at the drum helm, the guitars are spacious and deeply echoed, with distorted vocals that Fever Ray perfects so well and the odd background-sampled noise thrown in for good measure. This is a dynamic and beautiful track that ends with heavy distorted riffs, a direction that No Joy have developed as an artform. An interesting turn of events for a memorable track.

Ending quite literally with 'End', a two-minute extended outro with what seems like a laugh left on the track at the very end, Jaguwar have produced an interesting album that though clearly wears its influences on its sleeves, showcasing development and improvement from their fledgling beginnings. A sonic adventure that would cheer the souls of the most hardiest of listeners.

 

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