Chasms - The Mirage - - Soundblab

Chasms - The Mirage

by Steve Rhodes Rating:9 Release Date:2019-02-22
Chasms - The Mirage
Chasms - The Mirage

I first stumbled on San Francisco-originating, though now Los Angeles-based, dream-weaving duo Chasms back in 2016 with their 'Beyond Flesh' video and their debut album On The Legs Of Love Purified, and was swept up in the luscious instrumentation and introspective vocals. Sadly tragedy almost immediately befell the band as great friend Cash Askew, one half of the equally-excellent duo Them Are Us Too, and who starred in the video, passed away in the Oakland Warehouse Fire that year. Vowing to continue on, Chasms have produced another excellent album, whilst still touching on their Shoegaze origins, taking on more of an electronic dimension in the beats and pulses. Heartfelt and effective, the loss of a close friend has deeply impacted the band, who channel deep emotions into a beautiful album that floors the listener at regular intervals.

Processed percussion is at the fore on 'Shadow' as electronic tom-toms and 80s drums effects lead from the off, as hints of electricity in the background are supplemented by echoed guitars and Shannon Sky Madden's throbbing, dubby bass-lines, that appear a few minutes in. Tinged in industrial tones, like The Young Gods and Depeche Mode, it is a sparse but atmospheric number. The whole ensemble, with Jess Labrador's ethereal and near-falsetto vocal, dipping in and out of the track, seems at home with Quique-era Seefeel, giving a tranced-out, blissful feel, where neither vocals or instrumentation dominate each other.

Echoed drums immediately awaken anyone drifting from the opener in 'Every Heaven In Between'. The bass is heavier as the strings are strummed with greater intent. The guitars still bewitch and the beats remain relentless, but there is more of a doomier and congested feel to the track, especially in the instrumentation, which is why Jess' uplifting and optimist vocals, hinting at School of Seven Bells, are a nice counter-point that weld neatly in the track. The Cure and a dancier This Ascension are neat bedfellows to a strong song that gets the head nodding in unison.

The feeling of loss seems most apparent on the most poignantly-titled track on the album: 'Deep Love Deep Pain'. A wobbling bass, minor-note echoed guitar strums and tinny percussion lead the way in a The Field Mice tradition before Jess' angelic vocals soar over the song. The serene descending chords add that final touchstone to the pure heartfelt sorrow of the track, as the instrumentation and vocals depart with just a beautiful outro of the reverbed and echoed guitar bringing the song to a close.

The solemnity continues with 'Gratuitously Cruel', focusing on Pygmalion-era Slowdive and latter-day Talk Talk in the arpeggio guitars, accompanied by restrained percussion and deep, minor-key synth chords. Jess's vocals seem more anguished which fits effortlessly with the melancholy of the track. The spacious guitar notes are frugally used, almost alternating with Jess' vocal, and the combination of the two is inspired, elevating the song to new heights, as Jess' vocals become more repetitive and hypnotic towards the end, as a subtle addition of multi-tracking and layering of vocals adds more depth to a phenomenal track.

In the context of the album, 'No Savior' is a bit of an oddity. Returning to expressed percussion, this vocal-less track possesses guitars that seem more like chiming clocks and a throbbing bass, which meander along in a repetitive but still interesting manner, however, the percussion itself seems erratic and over-forced, especially towards the track's close, feeling as a whole more like an interlude than a fully-formed track

The pulsing electronic noises return for 'Tears In The Morning Sun' as Shannon's bass is far higher in the mix, repeating the same few chords throughout. Jess' guitars initially maintain the same clock-chiming feel of the proceeding track and the tone pretty much stays the same throughout, but it's Jess' vocals that carry the weight of the song, glacial and effervescent, like Autumn's Grey Solace, they are a joy to hear, and their sparing appearances allows the track to flow with ease.

Dialling up the distortion to eleven, everything seems immediately heavier with 'The Mirage', especially the guitars at the start, which have more sustain and bleed, rather than chime, adding an interesting, doomier dimension to the album, but maintaining the arpeggio guitars that seem to link all the songs together and the processed beats alone together for large portions of the track.

Re-working last year's single seems to be an odd choice for an album closer when the original was a solid release, but within a few chords you can see why it holds up brilliantly in its own right. Slowing the pace right down, Shannon's bass features heavily and Jess's vocals yearn more than on any previous track, the whole effect of which is a song that tugs the heartstrings more than any throughout the album, with an emotional wrench that floors the listener, leaving them to do nothing else but pay full attention to a gloriously hypnotic and heart-shredding track.

You can see how much Chasms have been affected by their recent loss, pouring their heart and soul into such a touching and heartbreaking work. It's testament to their drive and focus that Chasms have been able to produce an excellent and moving album that never feels weighed down, instead building on previous releases with subtle progression towards a more electronic focus, but still with eyes on their dream-pop origins.

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