Drowned In Sound
"Take me away, from it all"
sighs Matt Bartram during the hushed lullaby that is 'Adrift'
, and the entire momentum of this record is captured accurately in one deep breath.
Having operated on the outer periphery of the mainstream for a good seven years now, Brighton's Air Formation
are undoubtedly one of this nation's best kept secrets. Their forays
into sonic experimentalism and guitar-orientated ambience should not be
underestimated by any stretch of the imagination, and even if they don't
exactly shout about what they're doing from the rooftops, the clue is
in the title, I guess.
is a collage of almost surreal, swathing noise against a backdrop of choir-like vocals and picturesque melodies. "Where have I heard that before?"
you're probably thinking to yourself, and if you started to think of the pastoral epics of Nowhere
Ride, the tremolo-drenched beauty of Slowdive or even, dare I say it,
the apocalypse of everything dauntingly original and spectacular that
, then you're barking up the right tree.
But let's get something straight. To merely label this record as just
another shoe-gazing album would be doing both the artist and album in
question a great disservice. It would more than likely result in the
self-denial of one of the most lavish collections of music your ears
will have the pleasure of experiencing all year.
doesn't kick off as much as it steadfastly floats
into view, like some arcane voyage of discovery that doesn't quite take
full effect until anchored, in full regalia, straight in one's line of
sight. And that's just on the swooping beast that is opener 'Cold Morning'
takes a gentler approach, using casually strummed jangles against a wall of reverb and echo that recalls the heady days of Vapour Trail
and such like, although vocalist Bartram's tones give it - and Air
Formation as a whole for that matter - a quite unique entity of its own.
Take in the gigantic kaleidoscope that is the title track and marry it with the mind-blowing burnout of 'I Can't Remember Waking Up'
and it really does feel like being in the middle of a dream where
you're taken out to sea and despatched in the middle of some unspeakably
colourful parallel universe.
is like a post-nuclear meltdown encapsulated into
four-and-a-half breathtaking minutes, while the distortion filled
instrumental that is 'Formation' feels like the re-invention of
post-rock courtesy of alien beings from another planet.
Already over halfway into the record, you're almost doubting yourself, wanting a lull or something to take your mind away from Daylight Storms
for just a moment. Of course that moment never comes, as the record
just keeps on delivering new bursts of energy coupled with radiant
excerpts of calm that take and replenish one's breath in an instant.
The aforementioned 'Adrift'
is possibly the nearest thing Air
Formation have ever gotten to a three-minute pop song (either here or on
any of their previous recordings), yet its dreaminess fits handsomely
into the rest of Daylight Storms
with consummate ease.
The album's finale is almost claustrophobic; it seems to beg the listener not to let go after such a prestigious journey. 'Before We Forget'
is like the last post played through a battered old telecaster,
part-acoustic and invitingly haunting as Bartram struggles to get the
words out a la
Bob Wratten in the Field Mice's 'Let's Kiss And Make Up'
. Seven minutes later it's all done and dusted, but not forgotten.
Just another shoegaze record you say? I sincerely think not...
Drowned In Sound
Have you ever woken up and felt you were still trapped inside a dream?
Clearly if all dreams are meant to be pleasant and lovelorn affairs then
would be my choice to write the soundtrack.
Coming from the same stable of thought as the likes of Sigur Ros, My
Bloody Valentine and Mew, Air Formation can go from breathy escapism ('For The Hours'
) to futuristic terrorcaust ('Never Far Away'
) in a matter of minutes, whilst still encapsulating the listener, as the next twist and turn is only moments away.
Better still is the orgasmic drone of 'Ghosts'
, which sounds like Slowdive if they'd been airbrushed by Brian Eno's 48 track sequencer, while the glorious finale of 'Hope'
is just that... as fitting an end to a collage of dreaminess as Mew's 'Comforting Sounds'
, in that you never want it to end and immediately find yourself going back for more.
As their debut EP on the AC30 label, '57 Octaves Below'
is simply astonishing, as each track could hold its own as a formal "A side" among any peers both past and present. Remarkable.
Here it is, folks... my final installment in the new shoegaze records of
2004. And maybe, I've been saving the best for last. Air Formation
makes music the way that music is supposed to be made. Pure and simple.
Walls of guitar, floating vocals, heavy use of the ride cymbal, and just
enough feedback, all add up to some of the finest rock music that the
world has seen since Slowdive's Just For A Day
. Most certainly, Neil Halstead can be proud of the effect that his early band has had on the world... and rightly so.
Every moment of Stay Inside/Feel Everything is a moment of shoegaze
brilliance. From the opening delayed guitars and ride cymbal of "Turns
Into Sky" to the final seconds of the melancholy "Here Comes The Rain",
Air Formation have crafted a piece of musical art that breathes new life
into a once dying genre. This is accomplished by adhering to the rules
set forth by the earliest shoegazer bands, staying well within the
boundaries of the sound, yet not simply playing the same notes by rote.
There is no sense of plagiarism here, only that sincerest form of
flattery. Air Formation definitely creates their own voice inside the
choral of shoegaze.
Songs like "Turns Into Sky" are instantly familiar to a seasoned 'gazer
like myself. The slow musical build to a noisy crescendo is compelling
and highly enjoyable. The dense guitars of "Fallen Leaves" are
comforting to my ears. Dirty bass guitar gives "Seethrustars" an added
dimension of sonic fullness. "Stay Inside, Feel Everything" pulls out
the production tricks and feels like two songs within a song. It has
every single trademark that makes for an undeniably brilliant shoegaze
track; vibrant synth pads, ride cymbal, and molasses thick guitars.
"Caught Upon The Waves" adds just a bit of indie flair, while "Here
Comes The Rain" is set to an ambient noisescape filled with acoustic
guitars and pleasant AM radio vocals.
Did I mention the ride cymbal? This is by far one of my favorite records
of the new millennium... and I don't think it's only the flu medicine
This is the third release from Brighton, England's Air Formation (the prior 2 having been on Drive-In Records).
As you might guess from the band name, it's quite atmospheric, with guitar sounds draped in rich blankets of distortion
and echo, creating a sound which is both dense and spacious, expansive and intimate at the same time. The songs are
slow and sometimes heavy-tempoed with buried or minimal percussion, and they drift and float and sweep along much like
the clouds depicted on the album's cover (in special printing which glows under a black light). It's a classic shoegazer
sound, and these boys are treading ground already broken by bands like Slowdive and Flying Saucer Attack,
but they definitely are equal to the legacy of their predecessors. For me the album's standout is the closing track, "Here
Comes the Rain", a lovely, acoustic-based track which reminds me of
. On a cloudy day or a
late night, this album fulfills the invitation of its title.
From the UK, Air Formation play a beautifully cosmic brand of guitar
driven Shoegazer styled space rock. This is the kind of stuff that
sweeps you up and carries you away on a journey to otherwordly
dimensions... ethereal to the Nth degree. "Stay Inside, Feel Everything"
is their second album, and for this set the band consists of Matt
Bartram on guitars, programming and voice, Ben Pierce on bass, Richard
Parks on keyboards and drones and Ian Sheridan on guitar and feedback.
Air Formation construct their songs such that they come roaring out of
the starting gate at full volume impact, only to ease the tension at key
points in the songs. Others build from floating cloud like spacescapes
to high intensity, crushing waves of droning yet melodic sound, that
have the power of a tidal wave yet lovingly caress the listeners mind
with the sheer beauty of the music. This is multi-textured space guitar
heaven for the heavy rocking cosmic drone assault crowd. Bartram is
credited with vocals and there certainly is singing on the album, but
like much music of this style you can't really make out the words and
the voice really just serves as soothing brain balm, which is an effect I
"Seethrustars" is a standout track, being the shortest but one of the
most potent songs of the set, pounding out thunderous percussive blasts
and power chords that add a metallic edge to the trademark Shoegaze
sound. Very intense. "Full Flight" and "Caught Upon The Waves" are
highlight tracks that have a similarly overpowering affect. "Stay
Inside, Feel Everything" is a little different, having more of a rock 'n
roll groove than the other songs, while still retaining the spaced out
wall of sound style of the album. Fans of nuclear powered Shoegazer
space rock will find much to love here. Check it out.