Chestnut Bakery - Diaries
(2015 BoringProductions/Full Label)
The internet has mysterious ways of bending the dimensions of time and space, most interestingly in terms of culture/subculture - in the realm of music it offers such a glut of material for enthusiasts to chew on and digest via Bandcamp/Soundcloud/Discogs that the areas and ideas within this cultural dominion that I focus on seem to be in a constant solvent state. This acidic breakdown encourages scenes to fracture into tiny pockets of influence, creating an accessible space for bold individuals to experiment with new sounds and letting fans get to know band members better as individuals (to the point where New England jangle-pop outfit Real Estate houses three solo artists who released material this year). Rapid as this solvency may be, there is always a gluey, adhesive force of equal power that scrambles to attach the scattered debris back to the Cultural Web, building infinitely smaller, more niche nodes within the web's outer border, keeping its fluctuation of size in check. This regeneration forms fascinating, small-scale collectives like Full Label, a Cantonese digital-only imprint dedicated to reviving the elegantly fragile indie-pop of early 90s UK-based label Sarah Records. The latest (and most polished) twee transmission from the Guangdong province is Diaries: the debut effort of Chestnut Bakery that's as warm and feathery as its cover art and band's name suggests. It's western-influenced guitar pop that's actually a improvement over its British source material - a modern marvel that it exists and a greater on that I'm hearing it from the comfort of my own home a hemisphere away.
The quartet hails from Shenzhen, China's equivalent of Silicon Valley, and has dubbed themselves "the most 90s shoegaze band in [the country]", a claim that they back up with substantial evidence: Diaries acts as a sampler platter of late 20th century dream pop textures. The band uses a generous hand with reverb on "Saturday Afternoon", flooding the atmosphere with glistening guitar while letting its nimble basslines handle the brunt of expression - the gentle twang of strummed six-strings paired with frontwoman Rye's hushed delivery recall a creamier version of The Sundays' prickly punch of c86 pop. 7-minute centerpiece "Moon Palace" explores the dreamy psychedelia of Slowdive - perhaps even Julee Cruise(?) - slowly building from a muffled, phase-shifted drone to a post-rock fireworks display of explosive lead guitar theatrics. "Tunnel Party" and "Cream Soda" ratchet up the distortion, crafting Melberg-ian punk soundscapes. Though much of Diaries is noticeably derivative, I find the amount of the Cultural Web's surface area that it covers to be quite impressive: though Chestnut Bakery holds firm to a single guitar tone and overall aesthetic, no two songs of theirs sound quite alike. That's what makes Diaries such a satisfying and polished debut. Definitely worth a listen and multiple replays.