Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brad Kopplin
We're going to need to construct a setting for this essay and for the first time it will include a parquet gymnasium floor, chandeliers and a dynamic array of hues. It will involve cuts and clarity, purples, blues and reds, deep and thick variations of them, all a party to the festivities. A first time for us, not a first time for San Francisco band Film School, who specialize in atmospherics of all forms and liaison. We'll need a wooden floor that's been worked over just a bit - a thousand shoes changing a thousand different directions without a single buffing - and a little dusty, a little cold to the palms when getting down to it for copping a squat.
In that open room, meant for ballroom dancing or athletic diversions, we'll hoist a mirrored ball or two up to the ceiling to start spinning around. We'll do the same with a half a dozen chandeliers and then we'll begin - or Film School - will begin spraying the room with shafts of beaming lights that then get broken into hyphens and dots, shooting around like Mexican jumping beans. It turns the dark room into a circus of refractions and demented colors and prisms. All of the light gets spun up and then uncoiled again, splashing against torsos and faces and making it feel like everything's spinning away and almost out of control and staying washed out into one smoky pour. No one's died. There's nothing to mourn or pout about, but the fantastic set that is thrown up makes it feel like you're gleefully drowning in a wake, sinking into a state where you're not sure exactly how you're supposed to be acting.
It's an emotional situation, built around pulsing guitars and flavors that just get caught up in themselves, insulating what they are linking together - vapor and a greater unknown. They roll it in like Mother Nature's fog working overtime, spewing out clouds of the white stuff and lining it with felt and fleece, covering the floor with a matting of sonic heftiness that feels like a night that could go on forever and a day, which is quite a long time. The songs on the band's latest album, Hideout, take you away from the fundamental aspects of shoegaze and into a version of the genre that does not telegraph where it's going to be heading next.
It is dense and dark and can make you feel as if you're lost in a maze full of doors, though you don't care to make any step for the exit. It's a series of interlocking lights that reach for the sky and then make a thunderous cacophony of churning darks and less darks, shifting the weight from one mystery to another mystery, sometimes of the same genus and sometimes from somewhere completely separate. They ring in the clatter and they smooth out the edges so that what's left is a spread of scenery that is more of the indoor aftermath of a party - paper and spills, potted plants dumped out and glass broken - and yet it doesn't seem like anything resembling a mess or disaster. Quite the contrary. It feels as if you've been swept up in the rapids, riding the rocky concussions where the tempos boil and you can't hear your head anymore and also navigating those calmer currents where you still can't hear your head.
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