Some people require a cup of strong coffee come Monday morning to help them get back into the swing of things after the weekend. Apparently, all it takes for me is a few layers of shimmering, crystalline guitars. Because when I got into work, slipped Fingerpaint the Colour of Sound into the CD player, clicked “Play,” and heard the almost effortless tones cascading through my headphones, I immediately felt refreshed.
Recalling the work of classic shoegazers such as Kitchens of Distinction and Catherine Wheel, Stellarscope do a fine, fine job of blending the atmospherics inherent to the genre with a nice pop sensibility. As such, “All For” may seem to swim in lush guitar tones, but it’s underscored by a bouncing bassline and kickstart drumming that keeps the song from staring too long at the effects pedals. “Serenity“ ‘s title is a bit of a misnomer, as the song rides on a careening wave of fuzz-laden guitars and urgent vocals.
However, the more I listened to the disc, all lovely intros aside, the more it seemed to me that the group was writing shoegaze songs “by the number.” They’ve obviously ingested a number of albums by the bands mentioned above, as well as albums by Ride, Lush, The Boo Radleys, and whatnot. And it shows… quite a bit. The group obviously loves their effects, and stomps the heck out of their fuzz, distortion, and delay pedals, leaving the songs to drown beneath waves of the stuff.
But the disc’s real problem is the poor sound quality. Perhaps the band was trying to go for a more lo-fi sound, but the result is a pretty muddy mix. Vocalist Tommy Lugo almost always sounds like he needs to clear his throat first, and instruments either sound wiry and thin (the cymbals on “Something Delicious” are almost painful to listen to), mushed too close together, or a little bit of both.
Perhaps the promo copy I received was still a work in progress, waiting to be finally mastered, or whatever else needs to be done before a record is truly finished. Whatever the case, I can’t tell if what I’m hearing is really what I’m supposed to be hearing and what the band intended (is the flanging effect on “Dynamic Evolution” supposed to be that prevalent?). Perhaps all of the fuzz and distortion I bemoaned earlier are simply due to the sound quality.