The Mirage by Chasms (Review)

With its blend of dub music and dream-pop, Chasms’ latest album is shadowy and seductive.
The Mirage - Chasms

Chasms’ earliest recordings (e.g., 2014’s Subtle Bodies, 2016’s On the Legs of Love Purified) trafficked in the same noisy dream-pop that Cranes did so well on albums like Wings of Joy and Forever, juxtaposing dreamy female vocals and ethereally gloomy guitars with harsh rhythms one step removed from industrial music.

Those recordings would fit quite nicely alongside any “classic” Projekt albums on your shelf (think Lycia and Love Spirals Downwards), and are beguiling in their own way; listen to “Intimacy” from On the Legs of Love Purified for a perfect example of the duo’s initial sound. But with their newest album, The Mirage, Jess Labrador (drums, guitar, vocals) and Shannon Madden (bass) exchange their earlier, noisier sound for one that’s considerably more polished and refined — though no less shadowy.

This is largely the result of the duo’s decision to trade their nigh-industrial rhythms for the infinitely malleable sounds of dub. As a genre of music and method of production, dub has proven incredibly flexible over the years, capable of working with and expanding everything from Hood’s pastoral pop and Deepchord’s atmospheric techno to Ride and Slowdive’s shoegaze and Seefeel’s post-rock (to name but a few examples). Unsurprisingly, it does the same with Chasms’ murky dream-pop.

The duo’s earlier recordings were wreathed in goth-y smoke and tendrils, and that feeling is still present here. However, the dub infusion makes The Mirage even darker and more mysterious and seductive. The album’s seemingly endless reverberations — whether manifested through the skeletal programming, Madden’s creeping basslines, or Labrador’s voice and chiming guitars — create deep, dark pools that listeners sink into with each listen, Chasms’ echoing sounds luring them to go even further below the surface.

Key examples include “Every Heaven in Between” (which grows in beauty and intensity with each repeated line) and “Deep Love Deep Pain” (note the interplay between the crisp beats, crystalline guitars, and Labrador’s delicate sigh of a voice). Finally, The Mirage ends with two versions of Chasms’ haunting 2018 single “Divine Illusion,” which is both a farewell to their earlier, more industrial-influenced sound as well as a tribute to their friends who died in the 2016 Oakland Ghost Ship fire.

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