Kindling Everywhere Else

[No Idea; 2016]

Styles: shoegaze
Others: Nothing, Deafcult, Wildhoney

Kindling is a shoegaze band from Easthampton, MA, with two of its members in screamo outfit Ampere. While the band doesn’t adopt much of the speed, mania, or emoting of the latter, it doesn’t really bear much resemblance to any of the original crop of shoegazers either. Like many of the other modern players, their style is informed by a plethora of indie rock signifiers — grunge’s fuzz, twee’s softly melodic vocal style, punk/hardcore ethics — and the result is a sound at once distinct and ubiquitous.

Ease of access to what was once hard-to-come-by music means that disparate influences are often mined to achieve a similar end. The new millennium’s proliferation of file-sharing and the 2007 debut of Bandcamp as a release platform insured not only interest, but a common global marketplace for many of the artists who had heard this kind of music and decided to form their own groups. The most notable shoegaze releases that have come out in the last few years have been signified through quality songwriting and distinct aesthetic hallmarks. Kindling sort of splits the difference but leans on the former. Their fuzzed aesthetic is heavy, guitarist/vocalist Gretchen Williams’s vocals are winsome, and the songwriting is strong. But Everywhere Else doesn’t change much tonally from song to song, so the tracks tend to blur together.

This may be in part due to the production. On opening track “Coma,” Williams sings “no clarity from farther back,” a maxim that could be readily applied to the release itself. All of the warped-sounding guitar shapes are so buried that you wish one of them would crack through. The standout track, meanwhile, is “Blinding Wave,” which should be old news from having been released on the excellent Galaxies 12-inch last year, with no discernible difference between the two versions. In fact, the place that Everywhere Else really shines is in its faster songs, such as on this track and “Weightlessly.” With the amp’d-up tempo, the band’s few shortcomings fall away entirely and their melodies are able to shine through.

The lore goes that, in its prime, shoegaze was an almost exclusively UK concern. American shoegaze is a rarely discussed aspect of the genre’s history, but one to which Kindling now belongs. While our neighbors across the pond were busy hashing out the classics, the US scene was left out of the spotlight. An alternate canon of US releases could include Lilys’s In the Presence of Nothing, Medicine’s Shot Forth Self Living, Bethany Curve’s Skies a Crossed Sky, Lovesliescrushing’s Bloweyelashwish, and Mahogany’s The Dream of a Modern Day for starters. Everywhere Else sits comfortably in this spectrum of worthwhile and engaging work.

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