July 13, 2013

Album Review: Whirr's Around EP

The crossover success of Deafheaven’s Sunbather with a wider audience can only further expose the hidden gems within the Bay Area’s underground scene, and you have to imagine that no one stands more to gain than Whirr, the shoegazing sextet which happens to feature former Deafheaven touring guitarist Nick Bassett. Sometime between supporting Roads to Judah and releasing Whirr’s encouraging 2012 effort Pipe Dreams, Bassett decided to break away onto his own to concentrate his efforts full-time on the up-and-coming BUZZSound, and with their new four-song EP Around, Whirr redesign their blueprint of lush pop reverberations with a complex rendering of dense atmospherics and long-form dirge that inhabits the desolate corners their peers in Deafheaven have departed.

Around plays like an expanded and cinematic experience that's more akin to the doom clouds overcasting Whirr's introductory EP Distressor rather than the warm, autumnal fuzz of Pipe Dreams, and capitalizes on their strength of crafting intense shoegaze where the benefit of having six members is audible in the depths of its sound. "Drain," its 8-minute opener, is the longest track of the listen and sets its pace by leading in a thunderous storm of reverb and solemnity between the vacant space of Kristina Esfandiari and Loren Rivera's washed out vocals. Sequentially, "Swoon" and "Keep" is where the sky breaks open over their oceanic rumble of aggressive guitar layers, sweeping drums and refracted harmonies, bringing with them dramatically crashing waves that don't necessarily brandish Around with a summertime sizzle, but still attaches it to the violent saltwater soundscapes of the season. The closer, the EP's title track, assesses the damage left in this storm's wake with slow-drifting repetition and a straining acoustic glimmer that serve as a comedown to the white noise preceding it, revealing all of broken pieces of boardwalk, stranded sea life and seaweed to wash their way onto the shore.

Despite its brevity in a tracklist, this is a more complex listen from Whirr that requires total immersion from start to finish, and yet, like previous material, Around offers new rewards and fascinating discovering within its ornately woven tapestry. It's difficult to speak of Whirr without crediting some of their obvious influences within the shoegaze scene such as trailblazers My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive, but like their peers Deafheaven, their reformation of the genre's key elements fully dedicates itself to the emotional connection and bringing them to life on stage. Sunbather may be the lonely person's soundtrack for the days their feet hit the hot sand, but on Around, Whirr create something equally brutal and beautiful for those grey sky days.

Whirr's Around EP is available now on Graveface Records.

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