February 16, 2008

Chorus

lovesliescrushing (2007, Wavertone)
Chorus

Over the past decade or so, Scott Cortez has been delivering some of the purest shoegazer sounds on the planet via his band Lovesliescrushing. Lovesliescrushing’s music essentially boils down to two things: the ethereal, wordless vocals of Melissa Arpin and Cortez’ effects-riddled, overdriven guitars. And when captured by Cortez’s Tascam 4-track, those two elements have converged over the years to create what is essentially shoegazer’s logical end, a glorious, blissed-out cacophony that is as delicate, fragile, and heavenly as it is ear-shatteringly loud.

But that was then. Chorus represents a significant shift for Lovesliescrushing, if not sonically, then at least foundationally. For this latest album, Cortez has set his Fender Jaguar aside — don’t worry though, his other band, STAR, is giving him enough of a six-string fix — and has focused solely on both his and Arpin’s voices, running them through all manner of digital effects and processing.

The results don’t sound all that dissimilar from past Lovesliescrushing albums on the first pass — Chorus still contains the same otherworldly beauty that you find on, say, Glissceule. If anything, though, the music is even more spectral, ghostly, and haunted because the sole instrument — the human voice — is one that is normally so familiar and yet this time, is so far removed from its normal range.

Cortez performs all manner of sonic alchemy on the vocals, bending, stretched, looping, and processing them until they contain only vestigial remains of humanity and instead, sound pretty alien. But enough familiar-ness is there that the sounds still resonate on at least a primal level, even on a track as distant and cosmic as “Merr”.

There are moments where it’s difficult to believe that all you’re hearing are just processed vocals. Whether it’s the buzzing drones that form “Zrint”’s backdrop, or “Jomm”’s gloomy, metallic-sounding rhythms, or the ghostly flute-like melody that loops itself around “Rhuv”’s angelically forlorn vocals, they sound complely inhuman. Indeed, on any other Lovesliescrushing album, you’d chalk them up to Cortez’s skill at manipulating and manhandling his guitar. This time around, though, the sounds are testament to both Cortez’s skills as a sonic manipulator and to the malleability of the human voice.

Unfortunately, Chorus has not been officially released here in the States — it’s only been available directly from the band (and as far as I know, has only been officially announced on the band’s MySpace page). But it’s certainly worth tracking down, both by longtime fans of the band and by those looking for something a little different from the shoegazer/dreampop scene — or from ambient/experimental music in general.

As beautiful as they can be, there are times when shoegazer’s constant layers of gossamery guitars and glossolalia can get a little staid. Thank God, then, for a group like Lovesliescrushing who is always willing to shred the genre’s envelope and push things to extremes that few can withstand, all without sacrificing any of the music’s beauty or fragility. The results may not always be the easiest music to “get into” — even among diehard shoegazer fans, Chorus might be something of an acquired taste — but it’s never less than fascinating.