Lightfoils EP

Lightfoils (2012; Saint Marie Records)

Chicago’s Lightfoils take their name from wing-like objects that use light pressure instead of air pressure to generate lift and motion (no really, think solar sails). The name is more than a geekily poetic moniker, though. As their four-song debut EP reveals, it’s a fairly accurate description for what occurs within the quintet’s music.

The Lightfoils EP is as light (npi) and effervescent as anything in Lush’s catalog, and yet it’s propulsive and dynamic thanks to the rhythm section of Cory Osborne (bass) and John Rungger (drums). The result is a gently cathartic listen, an album that floats and flows in the finest shoegazer tradition and yet nevertheless careens madly and recklessly through its four songs.

This becomes apparent from the get-go: rather than begin with waves of dreamy guitar atmospherics as some shoegazer outfits might do, the EP kicks off with Rungger’s off-kilter drumming. His bandmates quickly come rushing in to match the pace he has set and then everyone’s off to the races. The twin guitars of Zeeshan Abbasi and Neil Yodnane churn and scintillate, their ambient patterns barely able to keep up, and one can’t help wonder how Nicole Baksinskas can sing so breathlessly without, you know, stopping to catch her breath given the EP’s pace.

That doesn’t mean there’s no subtletly to be heard on the EP. I’m quite taken by “How It Is“‘s evocative and gently morphing chord changes, for example. But really, Lightfoils’ shoegazer pop is at its best when it’s at its most aggressive and urgent (e.g., the turbulent Cure-esque guitar solos at the end of “Into Deep Sea”). Though associated with a genre that is so often identified — and rightfully so — with being wan, drifty, and amorphous, the “in your face”-ness of Lightfoils’ music is refreshing.

One wonders how this approach might play out in future releases, but for now, I’m content with simply appreciating the Lightfoils EP as a solid debut, as well as one of the best and most gripping shoegazer releases I’ve heard in months.