Whirr Sway

[Graveface; 2014]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: shoegaze
Others: DIIV, Deafheaven

As it turns out, Whirr is loud in real life, and not just on the internet. This is something I discovered when I saw them in an awkwardly large, low-ceiling’d room without a stage in Tempe a couple of weeks ago. The scene was hot and awkward. Most people filed in and filed out of the room almost begrudgingly, as if watching Whirr was their job. I’m not sure how it’s supposed to be, but I don’t think this is even remotely right — maybe shoegaze has lost more than just the connotation of material relevance once associated with that word. Still, there was mild transcendental communion between the band and I at some point during “Mumble,” as I was moved briefly to knock my head back and close my eyes.

Whirr’s is a shoegaze that shouldn’t be described using any other name for fear of wasting time. Their clean and deliberate vocals are Loveless through and through, their guitars freely passing between subdued and inhibition-less like Souvlaki, and their drums heavy like Isn’t Anything. Aforementioned highlight “Mumble” pairs wonderfully thoughtless, Tumblr-ready lyricism (“I’m different with you/ You’re better than what I’m used to…”) with an undeniably grandiose cluster of guitar tones, which seem to dance and swim. Some of the best and most innovative parts of Sway are those that aren’t communicated well live, like the tension between softness and intensity on “Clear,” which is one of the few Whirr tracks on which Shields-esque technique makes the melodies anything but. Independently of any obvious logic, there are a lot of genuinely enjoyable sounds on Sway.

Anyone who has ever read the Wikipedia page for “shoegazing” understands the word’s etymology, but Whirr seems to have figured out the whole story and noticed the sensory wonders hovering just above their shoes and effects pedals. When I listen to the quiet storm of title track “Sway,” I’m moved to actually look up, close my eyes, and embody the song’s title. Whirr’s monosyllabic band, album, and track titles are meaningless if not held to this simple standard of describing the uncontrollable and exterior forces that can move us, both kinetically and emotionally, as listeners and interested spectators. In that sense, the narrative of this record and of this band could be one of dumb beauty.

Of course, when I saw them, the vibe wasn’t quite there. Luckily, the much cooler kids standing around me didn’t seem to notice. Considering the textual ambiguity of Whirr’s musical approach and the jocular tone of their PR soundbites, the atmosphere was weirdly somber and humorless. Are Whirr secretly sober and vocational shoegazers? When they aren’t busy brainstorming funny Facebook posts or dicking around in MS Paint, how much time do they spend thinking about creative work? Just how often and in response to what do members of Whirr smile? I probably couldn’t call another music writer a pussy or a dumbass with a straight face, but I can say with some authority that Sway is a good album by a band with a logo that looks like an emoji.

Links: Whirr - Graveface

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