Shoegazing

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Shoegazing (or shoegaze, initially known as "dream pop") [2] [11] [12] is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock that emerged in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. [1] [2] It is characterized by its ethereal-sounding mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback, and overwhelming volume. [1] [12] The term "shoegazing" was coined by the British music press to describe the stage presence of a wave of neo-psychedelic groups [2] who stood still during live performances in a detached, introspective, non-confrontational state with their heads down. [1] [13] This was because the heavy use of effects pedals meant the performers were often looking down at the readouts on their effects pedals during concerts.

Dream pop is a subgenre of alternative rock and neo-psychedelia that developed in the 1980s. The style is typified by a preoccupation with sonic texture and atmosphere as much as melody. It often overlaps with the related genre of shoegazing, and the two genre terms have at times been used interchangeably.

Indie rock is a genre of rock music that originated in the United States and United Kingdom in the 1970s. Originally used to describe independent record labels, the term became associated with the music they produced and was initially used interchangeably with alternative rock. As grunge and punk revival bands in the US and Britpop bands in the UK broke into the mainstream in the 1990s, it came to be used to identify those acts that retained an outsider and underground perspective. In the 2000s, as a result of changes in the music industry and the growing importance of the Internet, some indie rock acts began to enjoy commercial success, leading to questions about its meaningfulness as a term.

Alternative rock is a style of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1980s. In this instance, the word "alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream rock music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply the independent, DIY ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music. At times, "alternative" has been used as a catch-all description for music from underground rock artists that receives mainstream recognition, or for any music, whether rock or not, that is seen to be descended from punk rock. Although the genre evolved in the late 1970s and 1980s, music anticipating the sound of the genre can be found as early as the 1960s, with bands such as The Velvet Underground and artists such as Syd Barrett.

Contents

Most shoegaze bands drew from the glide guitar template set by My Bloody Valentine on their late 1980s EPs and 1988 album Isn't Anything .[ citation needed ] A loose label given to the shoegaze scene and other affiliated bands in London in the early 1990s was The Scene That Celebrates Itself. In the early 1990s, shoegaze groups were pushed aside by the American grunge movement and early Britpop acts such as Suede, forcing the relatively unknown bands to break up or reinvent their style altogether. [1] In the 2000s, there was renewed interest in the genre among "Nu gaze" bands.

Glide guitar

Glide guitar is a technique for playing guitar in which the player strums while holding the whammy bar, resulting in a pitch that wavers. It was developed by Irish musician Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine on the band's albums You Made Me Realise (1987) and Isn't Anything (1988). Shields often combined this technique with a reverse reverb effect from a Yamaha SPX90 unit, and would also tune two neighboring strings of his guitar to nearly the same pitch.

My Bloody Valentine (band) Irish alternative rock band

My Bloody Valentine are a rock band formed in Dublin in 1983. Since 1987, its lineup has consisted of founding members Kevin Shields and Colm Ó Cíosóig, with Bilinda Butcher and Debbie Googe (bass). Their music is best known for its merging of dissonant guitar textures with ethereal melody and unorthodox production techniques. They helped to pioneer the alternative rock subgenre known as shoegazing during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

<i>Isnt Anything</i> 1988 studio album by My Bloody Valentine

Isn't Anything is the debut studio album by English-Irish rock band My Bloody Valentine, released on 21 November 1988 by Creation Records. Its innovative instrumental and production techniques consolidated the experimentation of the band's preceding EPs, and would make it a pioneering work of the subgenre known as shoegazing. Upon its release, the album received rave critical reviews and reached number one on the UK Independent Albums Chart.

Characteristics

Shoegaze combines ethereal, swirling vocals with layers of distorted, bent, flanged guitars, [6] creating a wash of sound where no instrument is distinguishable from another. [1] Most bands drew from the music of My Bloody Valentine as a template for the genre. [1] Co-founder Kevin Shields stated that the band's choice of pedals never included chorus, flanger or delay effects. [14] His most notable effect was reverse digital reverb, sourced from a Yamaha SPX90 effects unit. Together with the vibrato manipulation and distortion, he created a technique known as "glide guitar". [15] Shields used at least 30 effects pedals, [16] most of which were distortion, graphic equalizers and tone controls. [17]

Flanging is an audio effect produced by mixing two identical signals together, one signal delayed by a small and gradually changing period, usually smaller than 20 milliseconds. This produces a swept comb filter effect: peaks and notches are produced in the resulting frequency spectrum, related to each other in a linear harmonic series. Varying the time delay causes these to sweep up and down the frequency spectrum. A flanger is an effects unit that creates this effect.

Kevin Shields Irish musician

Kevin Patrick Shields is an Irish musician, singer-songwriter, composer, and producer, best known as the vocalist and guitarist of the band My Bloody Valentine. They would become extremely influential on the evolution of alternative rock with their two studio albums Isn't Anything (1988) and Loveless (1991), both of which pioneered a subgenre known as shoegazing. Shields's texturised guitar sound and his experimentation with his guitars' tremolo systems resulted in the creation of the "glide guitar" technique, which became a recognisable aspect of My Bloody Valentine's sound, along with his meticulous production techniques.

Reverberation, in psychoacoustics and acoustics, is a persistence of sound after the sound is produced. A reverberation, or reverb, is created when a sound or signal is reflected causing a large number of reflections to build up and then decay as the sound is absorbed by the surfaces of objects in the space – which could include furniture, people, and air. This is most noticeable when the sound source stops but the reflections continue, decreasing in amplitude, until they reach zero amplitude.

Etymology

"Shoegazing" was coined to describe dream pop bands. [11] It originated in a concert review in Sounds for the newly formed band Moose in which singer Russell Yates read lyrics taped to the floor throughout the gig. [18] The term was picked up by NME , who used it as a reference to the tendency of the bands' guitarists to stare at their feet—or their effects pedals—while playing, seemingly deep in concentration. Melody Maker preferred calling it "The Scene That Celebrates Itself", referring to the habit that the bands had of attending gigs of other shoegaze bands, often in Camden, and often playing in each other's bands.[ citation needed ] According to AllMusic: "The shatteringly loud, droning neo-psychedelia the band performed was dubbed shoegaze by the British press because the bandmembers stared at the stage while they performed". [1]

<i>Sounds</i> (magazine) magazine

Sounds was a UK weekly pop/rock music newspaper, published from 10 October 1970 to 6 April 1991. It was produced by Spotlight Publications, which was set up by Jack Hutton and Peter Wilkinson, who left Melody Maker to start their own company. Sounds was their first project, a weekly paper devoted to progressive rock and described by Hutton, to those he was attempting to recruit from his former publication, as "a leftwing Melody Maker". Sounds was intended to be a weekly rival to titles such as Melody Maker and New Musical Express (NME). It was well known for giving away posters in the centre of the paper and later for covering heavy metal and Oi! music in its late 1970s–early 1980s heyday.

Moose were a British indie rock band who formed in London in 1990. The original line-up included Russell Yates, K.J. "Moose" McKillop (guitar), Damien Warburton (drums), and Jeremy Tishler (bass). After Warburton and Tishler left the band they were replaced with Lincoln Fong (bass), his brother Russell (guitar), and Richard Thomas (drums). Other members have included Mig Moorland (drums) and Mick Conroy (keyboards).

<i>NME</i> British weekly music journalism magazine

New Musical Express (NME) is a British music journalism website and former magazine that has been published since 1952. It was the first British paper to include a singles chart, in the edition of 14 November 1952. In the 1970s it became the best-selling British music newspaper. During the period 1972 to 1976, it was particularly associated with gonzo journalism, then became closely associated with punk rock through the writings of Julie Burchill, Paul Morley and Tony Parsons. It started as a music newspaper, and gradually moved toward a magazine format during the 1980s and 1990s, changing from newsprint in 1998.

Slowdive's Simon Scott found the term relevant:

I always thought Robert Smith, when he was in Siouxsie and the Banshees playing guitar [on the 1983's Nocturne live video], was the coolest as he just stood there and let the music flood out. That anti showmanship was perfect so I never really understood why people began to use "shoegaze" as a negative term. I think if Slowdive didn't stand there looking at what pedal was about to go on and off we'd have been shite. [...] I am glad we were static and concentrated on playing well. Now it is a positive term. [19]

Robert Smith (singer) English singer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter

Robert James Smith is an English singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. He is the lead singer, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, primary songwriter, and only continuous member of the rock band the Cure, which he co-founded in 1976. He was also the lead guitarist for the band Siouxsie and the Banshees from 1982 to 1984, and was part of the short-lived group the Glove in 1983. He is known for his distinctive voice, guitar-playing style and stage look, the latter two of which were influential on the goth subculture that rose to prominence in the 1980s. Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Cure in 2019.

Siouxsie and the Banshees English rock band

Siouxsie and the Banshees were an English rock band, formed in London in 1976 by vocalist Siouxsie Sioux and bass guitarist Steven Severin. They have been widely influential, both over their contemporaries and with later acts. Mojo rated guitarist John McGeoch in their list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" for his work on "Spellbound". The Times cited the group as "one of the most audacious and uncompromising musical adventurers of the post-punk era".

<i>Nocturne</i> (Siouxsie and the Banshees album) 1983 live album by Siouxsie and the Banshees

Nocturne is a live double album and video by English rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees, released on 25 November 1983 by Polydor Records in the UK, and by Geffen Records in the United States. Co-produced by Mike Hedges, Nocturne featured performances recorded at two shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London, on 30 September and 1 October 1983, featuring Robert Smith on guitar.

The term was also considered pejorative,[ citation needed ] especially by a part of the English weekly music press who considered the movement as ineffectual, and it was disliked by many of the groups it purported to describe. Lush's singer Miki Berenyi explained: "Shoegazing was originally a slag-off term. My partner [K.J. "Moose" McKillop], who was the guitarist in Moose, claims that it was originally leveled at his band. Apparently the journo was referring to the bank of effects pedals he had strewn across the stage that he had to keep staring at in order to operate. And then it just became a generic term for all those bands that had a big, sweeping, effects-laden sound, but all stood resolutely still on stage". [6] Ride's singer Mark Gardener had another take on his group's static presentation: "We didn't want to use the stage as a platform for ego ... We presented ourselves as normal people, as a band who wanted their fans to think they could do that too." [13]

A pejorative is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative connotation or a low opinion of someone or something, showing a lack of respect for someone or something. It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. Sometimes, a term is regarded as pejorative in some social or ethnic groups but not in others, or may be originally pejorative and eventually be adopted in a non-pejorative sense in some or all contexts.

Lush (band) band

Lush were an English rock band formed in London in 1987. The original line-up consisted of Miki Berenyi, Emma Anderson, Steve Rippon (bass) and Chris Acland (drums). Phil King replaced Rippon in 1991. They were one of the first bands to have been described with the "shoegazing" label. Following the death of Acland, the group disbanded in 1996.

History

Origins and precursors

My Bloody Valentine performing live in 2008 My Bloody Valentine-2.jpg
My Bloody Valentine performing live in 2008

The most commonly cited precursors to shoegaze are the Cocteau Twins, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine. Each band's music bridged the styles of garage rock, 1960s psychedelia and American indie bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. [6] Other artists that have been identified as direct influences on shoegaze include the Velvet Underground, Hüsker Dü and the Cure [20] . Siouxsie and the Banshees was also a major influence, initially on Cocteau Twins. Slowdive named themselves after a Siouxsie and the Banshees song of the same name and took inspiration from the group at their beginnings. Lush, a shoegaze contemporary, were originally called "The Baby Machines", a line from a Siouxsie lyric. [21]

My Bloody Valentine emerged in the wake of their 1988 breakthrough (with the "You Made Me Realise" single and album Isn't Anything ). [22] The Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock mentions that "A.R. Kane, the London duo ... (who dubbed their music 'dreampop') exerted a profound sonic influence on the legion of trippy shoegazer guitar bands that would emerge a few years later in the UK". [23] Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life cited an early 1990s Dinosaur Jr. tour of the United Kingdom as a key influence. [24]

Whereas contemporary alternative rock movements of the time period were extremely male-dominated (Britpop, grunge), My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Lush, the Cocteau Twins, and many other popular shoegaze acts had at least one prominent female musician who contributed key vocal elements and/or integral writing components to the music. Kevin Shields noted that there were as many women as men in the shoegaze community. [25]

The Scene That Celebrates Itself

A general description given to shoegaze and other affiliated bands in London in the early 1990s was The Scene That Celebrates Itself. The first stirrings of recognition came when indie writer Steve Lamacq referred to Ride in an NME review as "The House of Love with chainsaws". The shoegaze genre label was quite often misapplied. As key bands such as Slowdive, Chapterhouse and Ride emerged from the Thames Valley, Swervedriver found themselves labelled shoegazers on account of their own Thames Valley origins, despite their more pronounced Hüsker Dü-meets-Stooges stylings. [26]

Decline

The coining of the term "The Scene That Celebrates Itself" was in many ways the beginning of the end for the first wave of shoegazers. The bands became perceived by critics as over-privileged, self-indulgent and middle-class. [6] This perception was in sharp contrast with both the bands who formed the wave of newly commercialized grunge music which was making its way across the Atlantic, as well as those bands who formed the foundation of Brit-pop, such as Pulp, Oasis, Blur and Suede. [13] Britpop also offered intelligible lyrics, often about the trials and tribulations of working-class life; this was a stark contrast to the "vocals as an instrument" approach of the shoegazers, which often prized the melodic contribution of vocals over their lyrical depth. Lush's final album was an abrupt shift from shoegazing to Brit-pop, which alienated many fans; the 1996 suicide of their drummer signaled Lush's dissolution. Following a long gap from My Bloody Valentine since Loveless, aside from their 2008 reunion tour, the band released m b v in February 2013. Shields explained their silence by noting, "I never could be bothered to make another record unless I was really excited by it." [27]

Post-movement directions

Slowdive eventually morphed into the country-infused Mojave 3 and the dream pop Monster Movie, while other shoegaze bands either split or moved in other directions. The use of electronic dance and ambient elements by bands such as Slowdive and Seefeel paved the way for later developments in post-rock and electronica. [6] Several former members of shoegaze bands later moved towards post-rock and the more electronica-based trip hop. [13] Adam Franklin of Swervedriver released lo-fi albums under the moniker Toshack Highway. [28]

A resurgence of the genre began in the late 1990s (particularly in the United States) and the early 2000s, that helped usher in what is now referred to as the "nu gaze" era. [13] Also various heavy metal acts were inspired by shoegaze, which contributed to the emergence of "post-metal" and "metalgaze" styles. [29] [30] Particularly in the mid-2000s, French black metal acts Alcest and Amesoeurs began incorporating shoegaze elements into their sound, pioneering the blackgaze genre. [31]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Noise pop is a subgenre of alternative or indie rock that developed in the mid-1980s in the United Kingdom and United States. It is defined by its mixture of dissonant noise or feedback with the songcraft more often found in pop music. Shoegazing, another noise-based genre that developed in the 1980s, drew from noise pop.

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<i>This Is Your Bloody Valentine</i> 1985 EP by My Bloody Valentine

This is Your Bloody Valentine is the debut mini album by the alternative rock band My Bloody Valentine, released in January 1985 on Tycoon Records. Recorded in West Berlin, Germany, it features the band's early gothic rock and post-punk sound, which contrasts the shoegazing sound with which My Bloody Valentine are associated.

<i>Ecstasy</i> (My Bloody Valentine album) 1987 EP by My Bloody Valentine

Ecstasy is the second mini album by the alternative rock band My Bloody Valentine, released on 23 November 1987 on Lazy Records. Released in a limited edition of 3,000 copies, it was the band's final release for Lazy Records and second to feature vocalist and guitarist Bilinda Butcher, who was recruited in April 1987 following the departure of original My Bloody Valentine vocalist David Conway. Ecstasy followed the noise pop and twee pop standards of My Bloody Valentine's earlier releases for the label, drawing influence from various artists including The Jesus and Mary Chain, Love and The Byrds, and the album distanced the band further from their earlier post-punk and gothic rock sound.

<i>A Kiss in the Dreamhouse</i> 1982 studio album by Siouxsie and the Banshees

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<i>Blue Skied an Clear</i> 2002 studio album by Various Artists on Morr Music

Blue Skied An' Clear is a two-disc compilation, featuring various artists from Morr Music covering songs from the shoegazer band Slowdive on the first disc and composing songs "inspired" by Slowdive on the second disc. It was released in 2002 by Morr Music, and was the label's 30th release. In addition to serving as a showcase of the Morr Music roster, this release serves as a testament to the resurgence or revival of the shoegazing sound in this particular realm of electronica or IDM. Whereas the initial wave of shoegazer rock had fuzzed out guitars as a central characteristic, the artists on this release combine that with glitchy beats, synth tones, and digital signal processing effects. On this release, and with this indietronica style of music in general, musicians composing with software housed in laptop computers often replace the conventional rock band formula. Being composed of Slowdive covers, the first disc has substantially more vocals than the second disc, which is more in line with the modus operandi of electronica or indietronica artists, generally speaking.

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