The shoegaze scene has gotten a little bloated as of late. What began as a group of like-minded sonic experimentalists in the late 80s has been overtaken by scores of bands who are more concerned about showing Instagram how good their pedalboards look than how they actually sound. Much of the music released in the genre play like elaborate gear demos instead of good songs.
But on their debut double single, Bath UK newcomers Night Swimming demonstrate that the whole point of these lush sonics in the first place is to write great music—and that’s exactly what they do.
“Freight Train” kicks things off with icy guitar lines stabbing through the hazy atmosphere. Vocalist Meg Jones delivers an airy couplet before the drums kick in with an urgent shuffle that buoys the sparseness of the guitars and introduces some satisfying polyrhythms. This shuffle drives the song headlong toward the horizon while the vocals and guitars swirl around each other in a majestic aerial dance.
As “Freight Train” comes to an end, a swell of billowing reversed guitar loops introduces “A Wall.” Jones and the guitars spend over a minute floating in the atmosphere before the rhythm section joins in. The drums are much more subdued this time around, riding a dark but easy groove reminiscent of trip hop acts like Massive Attack or Portishead. The song cycles around a hypnotic progression until the closing moments, where a key change and rhythm shift bring a bittersweet sort of triumph.
And while they may avoid the bombastic walls of fuzz that most bands in the genre employ—they’re more Slowdive than My Bloody Valentine in that regard—there’s something about their sense of harmonic structure and atmosphere that reminds me of blackgaze pioneers Alcest, whose searing bursts of black metal are interwoven with melodic ambiance quite similar to this.
In under eight minutes, it’s over, but the pair of singles is an enchanting appetizer for what the band might do next. And I will certainly be waiting for that with open ears.
“Freight Train // A Wall” is out now on Bandcamp.