November 7, 2004

Voirshn

lovesliescrushing (2003, Projekt Records)
Voirshn

If you take shoegazer/dreampop to its furthest extremes, push its sonic concepts to their outermost limits, and essentially take the genre as far as it can go into the atmosphere, chances are that not only has Scott Cortez already been there, but that he's even gone further beyond the horizon. For the past decade or so, Scott Cortez (along with various female vocalists) has been wrangling, warping, and coaxing all manner of gossamery textures from his guitars and effects pedals and recording them onto his trusty Tascam 4-track, ensuring that his “songs” (if you can call them that) are bathed in so much hiss and noise that it’s impossible to tell where one ends and the next begins. And the results have always been nothing less than captivating.

Following two releases on Projekt Records (the band proved quite out of step with the label’s ubiquitous goth/darkwave sound), the band then released 2002’s fabulous Glissceule on Sonic Syrup. Glissceule represented a new leap for the band, taking their sound to even more atmospheric extremes, while incorporating a few glitchier elements due to Cortez using digital processing on a release for the first time. Voirshn picks up where Glissceule, containing tracks that didn’t make it onto that CD while further developing the band’s new sound (which Cortez has labelled “glitch-bliss”).

Although several harsh, squeaking tones open the album, “Glixen” soon morphs into Cortez’ trademark guitar abuse, as layers of ephemeral tones begin shifting and sliding around and through eachother, bridging the gap to Glissceule’s ethereal realm. The beauty with Cortez’ sound is that it’s so abstract and surreal, so far removed from any real sense of structure, that one can hear almost anything within them — be it a million churchbells, thousands of crystalline windchimes, the distant roar of jet engines, a choir of alien insects, or something even more imaginative and even spiritual. Meanwhile, Melissa Arpin’s disembodied vocals float wordlessly overhead, frosty and aloof.

“Sovfx” is reminiscent of classic Cocteau Twins, especially the sonic tableaux of Victorialand, the Twins’ most atmospheric and purely sonic release. Cortez’ reverbed and delayed guitars constantly fold back in on themselves, drawing the listener into a warm and surreal space where Arpin’s wispy vocals await to embrace them.

On tracks such as “Riuj”, “Ckaif”, “Juhl” and “Shivan”, Cortez’ new “sound” — the aforementioned “glitch-bliss” — comes into focus. On “Riuj”, a column of soft rumbling pulses give the song a sense of backbone and structure that is often missing from other tracks, while a ghostly cloud of processed vocals sigh and drift all around. “Ckaif” reminds one of classic Seefeel tracks such as “Charlotte’s Mouth” and “Through You”, as glurpy rhythms chirp away beneath gauzy vocals and soft guitar clouds, only to be dashed to pieces by choppy waves of static and noise.

“Juhl” places much of its emphasis on the “glitch” side of things, as the soft pitter-patter of digital distortions becomes a kaleidoscope that distorts and distends Arpin’s voice into something eerie. On “Shivan”, the glitch has all the presence of raindrops echoing on the roof, their sounds resting on a level barely above “subliminal”, as the deep rumble of Cortez’ guitar slowly grows, adding an emotional heft to the song.

And that’s perhaps the greatest thing about lovesliescrushing’s music. That no matter how abstract or surreal, how noisy and harsh, how processed and glitchy their sound becomes, there’s always a heart beating at its core, a fragment of emotional warmth and beauty that elevates the seemingly endless layers of noise and disembodied female vocals to something much more than purely experimental.

Voirshn looks to be the very last lovesliescrushing release. Browsing the Wavertone website reveals that Cortez has decided to do away with the moniker, claiming that it’s become soiled with too many goth affiliations (due, presumably, to the band’s past relationship with Projekt). If this is indeed the end of lovesliescrushing, than a number of musical projects (all with similarly evocative names such as Sohn, Panauramic, and Polykroma) stand ready to continue Cortez’ lovely assault of beautiful noise on his listener’s ears.