Reighnbeau - Hands
(Bridgetown Records 2014)
Though I've been a stalwart supporter of shoegaze ever since I first laid ears on the genre, it can, at times, be a rather polarizing scene. Most shoegaze bands could fit into one of two camps, each of which is identified by its own brew of instrumentation. Most populated these days is the dream-pop faction of shoegaze. Cloaked in a bubble of reverb, these bands possess a watery guitar tone that ripples and dissipates endlessly across its own surface area, strummed chords displacing shimmering crests in their wake as if a jet ski. The drums are often relegated to the background and vocals tend to be rather theatric, taking heavy influence from the Cocteau Twins. The other brand of 'gazing stems from My Bloody Valentine's guitar tone. While the dream-pop style focuses on lightness, MBV's sound is like a black hole, an infinitely dense point in space from which nothing can escape. To listen to these bands is to be consumed in droning noise, pounding percussion and gnarled feedback propelling you along. Each of these is great to listen to on its own, but for a new shoegaze release to catch my attention it must find a way to bridge the gap between elegance and abrasion. Hands, the newest cassette by New Mexico's Reighnbeau, does just that.
It's perhaps most evident on the opening track, "Splinters" in which frontman Bryce Hample and guest vocalist Emma Crane whisper over trebly guitar chords, kicking up residual twinkle that arcs and spirals above all else. This beauty is as fragile as a post-snooze button dream, shattered by a gale force pulse of dark guitar drone. In this way, Reighnbeau has two strategies to approach a hook. First, there's the traditional manner of doing so: a dramatic chord change, a captivating string of plucked notes. But there's also a tonal approach as well, lacing two contrasting textures and timbres together in an act of transitional crescendo. Could this principle be illustrated in the album's cover art, reminiscent of the yin-yang symbol? It certainly is bold, minimal, driven by contrast.