In an ocean of shoegaze and shoegaze-influenced bands, it often proves to be a little daunting navigating those choppy waters in search of artists who break out of the mold. While no band a part of the shoegaze resurgence is dreadful, the amount of bands worshiping solely at the altars of My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver is staggering. Luckily there are acts like Jesu, Alcest, Nothing and He Whose Ox is Gored to name a few, who use the shoegaze style as jumping-off point and not a crutch. These bands build upon the nuances associated with the genre and mold them to fit their own respective styles, rather than trying to recreate a sound popularized by x-amount of other bands.
Add Brooklyn duo Spotlights to that list. Spearheaded by Mario and Sarah Quintero, this New York outfit melds shoegaze and alternative rock elements with monstrous, towering post-metal influenced sludge. The band’s 2015 Demonstration EP was just that, a demonstration. The band toyed with shoegaze-laden metal, post-rock, ambient and electronic elements on that infectiously catchy, yet slightly unfocused debut release. But it was the band’s emphasis on monolithic sludge draped in shrouds of colorful sound on track’s like “The Fire Walk” and “Mosh Pits to Mogwai”that were the high points of the record. Sure enough, Spotlights decided to explore and build upon those areas extensively for their first full-length album, Tidals. This release shows this band really coming into their own and puts a lot of its contemporaries to shame.
As its title suggests, Tidals envelops the listener in wave after wave of dense instrumentation that, while insurmountably heavy, is rife with a impeccable sense of melody. After the glimmering electronic intro track draws to a close, the nearly 40-minute opus officially begins with the thunderous “Walls”. The band conjure these huge sludgy and melodic riffs that, combined with bellowing bass lines and earth-shattering drumming, bury the listener under their sonic weight. The whole track swells with layers of sound and ambiance, which gives the pummeling track an odd tranquil feel. Keeping in line with their shoegaze influence, the Quinteros exchange quiet vocal melodies that are often drenched in effects. The song, and the album as a whole, sounds like the lovechild between Oceanic/Panopticon-era Isis and Hum.
The album’s is pretty sonically consistent throughout, though the band throw in some aural curve balls here and there to keep things interesting. “The Grower” begins its seven-minute excursion with a massive, groove-laden sludge riff that bleeds into echoing guitar melodies and grumpy bass crawls. After about four minutes the song’s doom dirge decays into an acoustic guitar-centered interlude before the track drowns in a sea of wavering chord progressions that march determinedly toward its climax. The album’s eight-minute closing track “Joseph” shows the band beginning in a more subdued manner. The track begins with a slow-building, melodic section comprised of reverb-laden guitar melancholia and glitching electronica. Around the four-minute mark the band unleash a procession of melodic, leviathanic post-metal chords that are accompanied by dense walls of synths and tremolo-picked guitar melodies. Eventually the doomgaze onslaught draws to a close and the listener is left to float on a final wave of calming ambiance.
Everyone wants to incorporate some shoegaze into their sound nowadays, but only a few band like Spotlights use it in interesting ways. Shoegaze has been referenced quite a lot throughout this review, but honestly it is just one facet of Spotlights‘s sound. The band’s affinity for sludge/post-metal, their tasteful utilization of synths and effects, and their subtle nods to 90s alternative all make for a captivating listen.If listeners allow themselves to be enveloped in Tidals‘ shimmering, metallic ocean of sound, they may find their next favorite band.
Release Date: May 13, 2016
Label: Crowquill Records
Favorite Tracks: “Walls”, “Hover” and “Joseph”
For Fans Of: Isis, Hum, Failure, Jesu, Deftones and He Whose Ox is Gored