Forevr: Classics / Death Is a Miracle

- Shoegaze is such an instantly recognisable sound. Its thunderous guitar fuzz never quite obscures a lurking sweetness: a uniquely burnt sugar taste, an intense caramel that isn’t for everyone. That goes some way to explaining the relatively small number of shoegaze bands out there. In that sparsely populated field foundational outfits like The Jesus And Mary ChainMy Bloody Valentine or Slowdive stand out, acting as very uncompromising benchmarks for anybody who attempts to enter the genre today. That’s especially the case in the last five years, when many of those legendary figures have returned with new records, material that is, in many cases, as stylish and critically regarded as any release from the earlier heydays of shoegaze.

You might think that such a resurgence would encourage new entrants in the field; well, yes and no. There are certainly new bands taking the plunge. In Australia for instance it’s easy to think of a handful: DeafcultUltramaterialVHS Dream or Bloodhounds On My Trail, are a few.  There’s some great new music being made there but too often I find myself succumbing to the urge to measure them against the classics of shoegaze, trying to assess just how derivative they’re being and whether I’m OK with that. To be honest, it’s a pretty silly, snobby pastime, but if it has any merit, that must surely include the happy discovery of a band actually doing something a bit different.

Take Deafcult and the way they say no Cocteau Twins style dreampop, choosing instead to do an enormous guitar rework of ‘90’s slacker-rock and alt-pop: a shoegaze Breeders or Lemonheads - yes please! Similarly with Ultramaterial: their maximalist explosion of synth and shoegaze is both intense and not exactly like anything I’ve heard before. Still another example can be found in a third bunch of Brisbane ‘gazers who might just be doing the most original work yet. Donovan Miller and Sam George-Allen started out Forevr as a duo, back in 2014. In their first couple of years they released a four track EP and a seven-inch, which is about right for your average band, but for some reason it always seemed like they were keeping things on the down low. At any rate, 2017 is the year that all changes with Forevr releasing not one, but two full-lengths simultaneously. You could already trace an evolution in the band’s sound, the ungovernable shoegaze thunder becoming more nuanced. The electronic beats and Sam George-Allen’s distinctive, seductive vocal climbing out from under the storm of guitar. Now, however, Forevr are done taking it slow, signing on two new members -Thomas Roche of  Roku Music and Kate Mackenzie of Martyr Privates- and employing those combined powers in a surge of songcraft. All this music shows both where they’re coming from and where they’re going to.

First up is Classics which, as the name suggests, is Forevr’s version of the perennial shoegaze sound. I think that’s a bit of a misnomer though. If you take the single Columbus, the sound is already stripped of much of the previously all-pervading guitar, leaving space for a sweetly melancholy song, worked out with metallic electro beats and played off against syrupy synth and Sam’s plaintive, torch-song vocal. It’s basically triphop, a-la Portishead right? Except you’ve got the echoes of the incredible heaviness that Forevr are capable of, which has me struggling for comparisons -maybe the heaviest moments of Björk or Lamb? As intense as Nina Hagen but not nearly as abrasive? There’s actually lots of connections to make, but Forevr aren’t really owned by any of them. Without it being exactly the same, I’m quite strongly reminded of the wildly experimental pop of Dirty Projectors when David Longstreth and Amber Coffman’s really divergent sensibilities came together on the Bitte Orca record: lots of crazy ideas chucked in the blender together, a beautiful, crazy experiment.

If that’s in any way apropos, it’s certainly a better way to think of Death Is A Miracle. Forevr’s second full-length is the band’s imagination in full flight, or, failing that, at least their nostalgia unleashed. Taking everything they liked about music in their formative years -which was, according to them ‘90s techno, turn-of-the-millennium pop and r’n’b- they’ve fed it through the sensibility of a shoegaze band. The results are really engaging, even if all of the individual influences are violently transformed into something they weren’t before: techno becomes idm, electronic pop becomes industrial and the r’n’b becomes the faint, sweet echo to take the edge off the brutal heaviness.

It’s such a bold move, really, I didn’t see this record coming at all. It’s like somebody said, “what the world needs right now is a version of The Mavis’s where they didn’t suck.” It’s such a lunge out of leftfield it makes me think Forevr recognised that Death Is A Miracle is the record they really wanted to make, but knew they had  to do Classics as well, as insurance, just in case nobody could handle Forevr at their most imaginative. I have a feeling that anyone who likes experimental pop and heavy ‘90s music will definitely want to hear what Forevr have become, however many people that might be. As for shoegaze fans? Well, who can say. This is hardly shoegaze any more. I said I was pleased by something a bit different coming out of the shoegaze, so thankyou Forever: I really got what I was asking for.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Classics / Death Is a Miracle
Artist: Forevr
Record Label: (Indie)