Who It Is: Lume – Perennial Phase; Mayfly Records (2016)
What It Sounds Like: Shores, Cloakroom, Xerxes
Calling Chicago-based three-piece1 Lume a shoegaze band feels sort of unfair to them, but then again, so does calling them anything else. They’ve certainly got enough effects pedals to fit the label, and the mix is rather shoegazey (it has that coming-at-you-from-all-directions-but-from-sort-of-far-away effect that really makes you rethink the term ‘space rock’), but the songwriting isn’t, if this make sense, hurried enough. The best My Bloody Valentine songs are the ones that feel like they’re going somewhere; track four on Perennial Phase, ‘Rattleback,’ is 7:10 long and (I checked) played mostly at 52 beats per minute. If it gets anywhere, well, it’ll be at its own pace.
So, let’s say somewhere between yr. classic Slowdive and slowcore bands like fellow sort-of-Michiganders Shores, you’ve got Lume. Their debut full-length record Perennial Phase is so coherently drone-y that it could almost be one thirty-five minute song. It’s not unbroken – ‘Rattleback’ ends with this big screamed outro, and the intro to ‘In Spades’ is a refreshingly genuine mash of studio guitars layered under what seem to be iPhone voice memo vocals2 – but the general formula of half-time drums, low vocals w/plenty of reverb, fuzzy bass, and eight-bars-of-riff, eight-bars-of-drop-chord guitar is rarely abandoned.
Some elements of Perennial Phase, therefore, are sort of hard to respond to. Lyrical content is an important part of what some albums are trying to accomplish, but the vocals here are mixed so low that it’s hard to make out more than a line or two at a time; doesn’t that just mean Lume weren’t trying to wow you with lyrical content? Several tracks, as mentioned, are structured almost identically and flirt with the same key, but if it’s supposed to feel like a coherent album, isn’t that part of the point? And as for the ‘this sounds a lot like Cloakroom’ thing, well, Cloakroom are a good band, and they can only put out so much music3.
All this is just to say that, if you like shoegaze or slowcore, Lume’s Perennial Phase is probably the first album of 2016 that’ll really make you go, ‘Oooo’; if you’ve always been meaning to check out that shoegaze or slowcore sound you’ve heard so much about, Lume is as good a place to start as any; and, if you routinely walk long distances, Perennial Phase is worth a go through decent headphones. Just, not if you’re in a hurry.
Overall Rating: 7.4/10
- How the flying F they got this heavy and deep a sound out of just one guitar and bass is honestly beyond me, and I would imagine it to be some sort of multitracked effect if not for the fact that they sound just as thuddingly heavy live. Gives the place one of those slight shakes that starts from the floor and tends to really only hit you in the knees.
- n.b. that the rest of the vox on the album are professional-quality; the iPhone voice memo vocals in this bit don’t come off as amateurish, is what I’m saying, but instead have the feel of a stripped-down acoustic track w/o any actual acoustic guitars.
- and it’s not exactly Cloakroom, anyway; I’m pretty sure Cloakroom would never play a riff as fun-sounding as the one from Lume’s ‘Never Been.’