A Low Ride
People often compare Northern California shoegazers Whirr to Ride and Slowdive — and certainly to My Bloody Valentine — but on the band’s latest EP, Around, another name needs to be mentioned.
On this four-song collection, the band sounds like the product of a midnight tryst in an abandoned subway tunnel between MBV and Minnesota-based slowcore band Low. Whirr are glacial and every move is a measured explosion into an infinite atmosphere of reverb and abrasive beauty. There is a slight rawness, smoothed a bit by hushed and angelic vocals, as was the case on their 2012 LP Pipe Dreams. But something has changed with the sextet that makes for an experience far more intense this time around. Everything is bigger and bulkier, even amid songs that are sparser and looser than anything on Pipe Dreams.
Opener, “Drain,” begins with what could be the sole contribution of a lone busker playing to a city park long since abandoned to sundown. The notes on the clean electric guitar part fly about in a cavernous reverb, transmitting a sense of longing into the ether for a couple minutes. There are shades of a funeral mass, with tones bending along serpentine-like on some melancholic spectrum. And then comes the crushing drums, ushering in a cyclone of gorgeous distortion. The angelic, MBV and Pumpkinesque vocals get lost in it all. There is beauty to this plodding sense of loneliness.
That is all carried out to a similar degree on “Swoon” and “Keep.” It’s as if the band set up the drums on the other side of the cave and carried on with the task of creating a symphony of oneness out of an array of wispy vocals, distorted guitars and cataclysmic drums, among other things. “Keep” is especially triumphant in this mission.
The title track, which closes the set, forgoes most of the abrasive guitar artistry in favor of shiny, chorused acoustic and electric guitars. The groove is laid back–allowing for the listener to unwind after being plugged in for the first three-fourths of the EP. “Around” is a necessary epilogue to the profound hugeness of “Keep.”
Sure, Around runs slow and is perhaps a little hard to sit through if the listener isn’t in the contemplative mood. However, the rewards are vast for those willing to dive head-first into the abyss for about a half-hour. Like what Kavinsky, College and Miami Nights 1984 have done for music driven by the best of 80s synthesizers, Whirr has done for shoegaze: The band offers a fresh, exciting rendition of a beloved formula from the past. It is poignant and enlightening.