Soundpool Mirrors In Your Eyes

[Killer Pimp; 2010]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: shoegaze, post-disco
Others: MBV, Chromatics

Part of the appeal of shoegaze, especially to artists, has always been its abstraction — the way it presents itself as an exercise in pure aesthetics. Semantic blankness invites bold formalism at the same time that it permits emotional and psychological distance, and the shorthands — noise as intensity, wooze as turbulent emotion, wobbly tuning either drugs or REM sleep — help the disguise. For the kind of artist who’s nervous about being out there, that’s both enabling and empowering.

Soundpool share a label with A Place To Bury Strangers and are one of a clutch of nu-gaze acts attempting to soften this ossifying genre. Their strategy — import some of the funk and extrovert energy of disco — is savvy enough. But here, it’s sabotaged by a flat mix and diffident performances. The beats aren’t given their due, and most of the potential hooks are snowed under by effects. It keeps its pleasures, and its meaning, at a distance.

It speaks to the lightness of their touch that Mirrors is still an enjoyable, stylish record. My favorite track is “Sparkle In The Dark,” a rare chord-centric song in which Kim Fields finds a great hook. My least favorite is “Makes No Sense,” whose wordless falsetto brings to mind a car commercial.

Actually, “Makes No Sense” is illustrative of the Problem With Shoegaze that, as yet, Soundpool haven’t solved. What Loveless did back in the 90s was so successful as a critics’ meme that this decade, it became a free signifier for anybody who wanted “arty.” Throw some woozy sonics into the mix and there you go, mystery. The style born of all this uninformed copying is the cloying and irritating pseudo-gaze heard in ads today, and the upshot is that wobbling wooze just isn’t as strong a drug as it once was.

Soundpool have an interesting idea, but they’re not assertive enough with it. Me, I figure better basics is a place to start — dirtier beats, project from the diaphragm, that stuff. Whatever way, they need to locate some of the Dionysian fuck-it passion that Shields cultists claim noise possesses. That’d be an angle on de-kitschifying this genre. If someone doesn’t, then shoegaze will be slaughtered, made into muzak, and buried next to all the other pure aesthetics.

Links: Soundpool - Killer Pimp

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