Friday, October 5, 2012

Airiel - Kid Games


Allow me to start by saying, I have not been as excited by anything I’ve heard in recent years as much as I was listening tofor the first time. Seriously, it sounds like it came from the straight from the early nineties, back when shoegaze was at its absolute peak and bands were really starting to push the boundaries of what could be done with walls of sound and plentiful guitar effects. The best way to summarise Airiel’s sound is as they describe themselves on their Facebook page – “It's loud. It's pretty. You can dance to it”. Indeed, the fact that bands like Airiel still exist is almost enough to bring a tear to my eye. This 4 track EP is seriously nothing short of breath-taking, and an absolute treat for fans of the genre like myself.

Well, enough flattery, let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about the actual music here! “Funerals” kicks things off just as one would expect, with fuzzy, distant bass, a slow deliberate drum machine ticking away, and a perfect marriage of vocals and guitars as gentle as gossamer. The whole song seems to swoon back and forth on itself, moving fluidly from each textured harmony to the next. As is typical of the genre, the lyrics are all but impossible to actually distinguish, yet that does absolutely nothing to lessen the impact of the exquisite marriage of both male and female vocal harmonies. The whole song sounds like a tide of feedback, lapping tenderly over your ears. It’s quietly, gently overpowering, in the best way possible.

As we press steadily on to “You Against The Rest of Us”, something unexpected happens – the lyrics become discernible! What a twist for shoegaze, eh? That said, despite catching me off guard, it doesn’t take anything away from the vocals fitting in with the instrumentation at all. In fact, if anything, it adds to it, giving another layer to appreciate among the shimmering guitars and incredibly soothing female vocals, delivered courtesy of guest vocalist Stella Tran (who has also worked with the group on the song “Firefly” from their Melted EP). The guitars really take over around the two minute mark here, with an abundance of reverb that allows each note to linger long enough to form harmonies with itself. This entire song reminds me of being adrift in a reef, surrounded by coral. A fitting image to summarise the whole EP, even if I do say so myself.

As “Flashlight Tag” begins, yet again the vocals come in and immediately grab the listener’s attention, yet this time they’re even more audible than before. And not only that, but there’s something about the vocal delivery here that really, REALLY reminds me of Morrissey. It might sound strange, but it suits the mood surprisingly well. “Flashlight Tag” is probably the least traditionally shoegaze sounding song on here, but at the same time, it also sounds as if it could someday gather some mainstream attention, perhaps even a spin on a mainstream radio station. Someday, maybe… We can but pray, ladies and gentlemen. The synth on here really steals the limelight, just overpowering the vocal and guitar harmonies that dance delicately below it. If there was ever to be a radio hit from this EP, I’m dead certain that this would be it.

The aptly titled “Daydreamer” kicks the primary focus back from the vocals to the general wall of sound provided by the guitars and production, and , to be honest, it’s hard for me to decide which I prefer. That’s the great thing about Airiel – they manage to both sound familiar, yet fresh, all at the same time, and in a genre that I thought to be long sedated to boot. This track in particular has a very solid feeling to it, as opposed to the gentle swaying of, for example, opener “Funerals”.  But that’s not to say it doesn’t still shimmer and twist melodically throughout, despite a noticeable lack of traditional guitar sounds. The main emphasis on here is in the bass, synth and production, all of which are just as flawless and polished as one would expect.

And so, just like that, comes the end of the single greatest aural experience of the last few months for me. I can’t help but feel that I really haven’t been able to do this EP justice at all.  To describe Kid Games in a single word, I guess the best would be – lush. Everything just blends together seamlessly. It’s as if the drone of the guitars, gentle rhythms of the drum machines and shimmering vocals were just meant to be heard in unison. It’s absolutely amazing. I can NOT say enough good things about this release, seriously. Even if you’ve never listened to shoegaze before (in which case SHAME ON YOU), you NEED to give this a spin. It just may give you a newfound appreciation for your guitar’s tremolo arm.


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