Openness Is Dreaminess & Everything In Between

by Keith Canisius (2010, Pad & Pen Records)

I first became aware of Keith Canisius in 2007, when Darla released the eponymous debut from Rumskib, his shoegazer project with vocalist Tine Louise Kortermand. What immediately struck me then was the sense of enthusiasm, ebullience, and yes, even joy that pervades Canisius’ music. There’s an infectious, starry-eyed giddiness to his swirling guitars and soaring vocals, such that no matter how obviously indebted he is to the great ‘gazer bands of yore, you can’t help but break into a smile and nod along as his music fills your ears.

That sense continues on through Canisius’ solo works, including last year’s Waves. However, with Openness Is Dreaminess & Everything In Between, I get the feeling that Canisius is maturing a little and looking to shed a little of the foolishness of his youth.

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The Sun Rose in a Different Place

by Echodrone (2010, Self-Released)

Echodrone has certainly come some distance since their 2007 self-titled EP. While “shoegazer” is probably still the best genre in which to place them, their debut full-length The Sun Rose in a Different Place reveals that that’s not the most accurate classification to make. True, the layers of shimmering guitars and sighing vocals are still there, but the band is clearly in the process of honing and refining such elements—which is both exciting and somewhat frustrating.

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Waves

by Keith Canisius (2009, Quince Records)

When listening to Rumskib’s self-titled debut several years back, I was struck by the duo’s exuberance, by the sense of joy that permeated their recording. The shoegazer genre has often been called “the scene that celebrates itself”, and here were a couple of shoegazers that were truly keen on celebrating.

That same feeling permeates Waves, the second solo album from Keith Canisius (one half of Rumskib). Indeed, Waves picks up right where Rumskib’s album left off: from the very get-go, Canisius dives headfirst into an ocean of shimmering, ethereal sounds, and does so with such enthusiasm that it’s hard to resist diving in right after him.

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We Were Flying Kites

by Stripmall Architecture (2009, Self-Released)

I’ve been writing about music for more than a decade now, and I’ve seen a lot of artists come and go (honestly, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it turned out that 80% of the artists I’ve reviewed over the years are now defunct). But there are some artists who continually stick around, who might go unheard from for a year or two, but then always get back onto my radar for whatever reason.

Ryan and Rebecca Coseboom are two such artists. I became aware of the Cosebooms via their first project, Anymore, which I discovered via a sampler that was offered on an old 4AD e-mail list that I once subscribed to. Then came Halou, their more electronica-minded outfit, which survived and transcended such terms as “trip-hop” and “downtempo” thanks to impeccable programming, plenty of 4AD-esque atmospherics, and Rebecca’s lovely vocals.

But Halou came to an end in 2008 while the group was touring with Bob Mould and the Cosebooms subsequently began Stripmall Architecture. It was originally an outlet for more experimental music than might’ve been associated with the Halou moniker, with live shows incorporating everything from “typical” electronics and guitars to typewriters and toy organs. But with the release of We Were Flying Kites, the Cosebooms have returned a little closer to the fold, so to speak—in many ways, We Were Flying Kites picks up right where Halou left off.

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Phoenix Asteroid

by Ecovillage (2009, Quince Records)

What’s that, you say? You’re looking for some good bliss-out music, but Jonas Munk (Manual) has become too gritty and earthy for you? Ulrich Schnauss doesn’t venture far enough into the stratosphere? M83’s atmospheres aren’t expansive and shifty-drifty enough for you to really get your bliss on? Well, in that case, may I humbly suggest Ecovillage’s Phoenix Asteroid? With this disc, Swedish duo of Emil Holmström and Peter Wikström have created what could very well be the ambient/dream-pop album of 2009. Surprisingly though, it’s deceptively more than just mere aural wallpaper.

To be sure, there’s quite a bit of song blur going on, in which the drones and drifts of one song just flow right into those of the next song. As a result, the album is little more than a Gaussian blur of shoegazer effects, synthesizer washes, and wispy vocals. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. When you’re looking for pure mood music that contains little too disrupt whatever serenity you’re seeking to attain, well, that describes a good deal of Phoenix Asteroid quite accurately—especially on tracks such as “Dawn Was Brand New”, “Invitation”, and the sixteen-minute title track.

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