Written by: Dave Cantrell
Everything, if you think about it, is structures, contours, layers, and purpose. No, wait. Everything is emotion, control, accident, and purpose. Or, maybe what it is, is inspiration, determination, patience and grace. This could go on forever but whatever impermeable quartet of qualities one decides upon has to add up, in musical terms, to an impression of time being momentarily suspended, the tacit intention of which is, frankly (and not to put too fine a point on it), the defiance of death.
On the evidence of debut album Ringthing, Jaguwar knows all this, or at least the noise they make knows this. To be fair, the progenitors of the shoegazey drone pop from which this Berlin-based band ostensibly take their cues steeled their own collective gaze pretty steadily on the notion of time without time. MBV was about nothing if not sheets of infinity lain atop sheets of infinity. But the better bet, if you’re asking me, were those – such as Ride and Pale Saints to name but two – that were less stingy with the odd melodic pop hook than Shields’ Dublin crew tended to be. You could still get lost in the metallic sheen of the great invisible but there were these followable guides placed strategically along the rockface, cannily familiar elements that allowed for the dual sense of feeling both grounded and wildly adrift inside the same experiential moment. It was records like Going Blank Again and The Comforts of Madness that helped me understand that the sublime could be sublimer with a touch of the tangible along for the, umm, ride. It’s a lesson that appears to have traveled well as it’s echoed down the past quarter century and across the channel, the trio of Lemmy Fischer (vox, guitar), Oyemi Noize (vox, bass), and Christoph Krendel (drums, percussion) injecting the form with enough stylish energy to kickstart a fresh new movement.
Verily bursting with restraint, “Lunatics” opens this Ringthing thing with a hint of the pastoral before bringing the bloody hammer down in the form of a rapid-fire drum blur and an assault of guitar chime that sounds as if a bright spring morning has just woken up armed. That overlay of the delicate wrapped in twinkling barbed wire is something of a constant here, even as the band has a seemingly endless store of means with which to deliver it. “Slow and Tiny,” past its moody moonshadow intro, opts for a propulsive post-punk throb; “Gone” with a suitably trippy bit of backwards guitar prior to it becoming enveloped in a daydream trance of melody and sorrow; the racing, compact “Night Out” with a hyperactive jangle like 1985 played at EDM MPH. And, as proven on “Whales,” the trio has the poignantly majestic safely nestled in their quiver as well, the thing’s glistening howl of effects not heard with such ambient intensity since that last Kitchens of Distinction album [Folly – ed.]
Finishing Ringthing with a pair of tracks named “Week” and “End” might seem a bit too-clever-by-half were it not for the fact that the former gives us a good guess as to what Robert Smith fronting Chapterhouse would sound like (pretty damned ace, as it turns out), while the latter comes shimmering out of its predecessor’s shadow and roams over the horizon like a haze dream gone for a walk.
The best work is nearly always a study in subtle contrasts, the light and the dark playing to each other’s strengths via the cagey strategy of gradation and stealth. On this solidly assured debut, you can hear it happening without hearing it happen, which is the kind of thing that occurs when time’s being suspended, of course, and kudos to Jaguwar for defying physics on their first full-length.