Hyla: Osaka

- Australia is going through a little shoegaze renaissance at the moment. Every time I run through the list of bands fervently worshipping the fuzz it gets longer and longer. I’m a bit parochial so I always mention my favourite Brisbanites first: ForevrDeafcult or Ultramaterial, but it’s going to be harder to shove Perth’s Hyla somewhere down the bottom of the pile with the advent of their debut full-length, Osaka.

The West Australian quartet have been kicking around enormous noises since 2014 releasing an EP in their second year. I think they’d been planning to get an LP out earlier, but -as is so often the way- it’s a big undertaking and needed a little bit more time to gestate. What has manifested justifies the time taken, ten roaring numbers which, behind the blast, are surprisingly diverse.

It could just be me -being derivative and boring (as well as parochial, gosh!)- but because the pantheon of shoegaze features a relatively small number of bands -your My Bloody Valentines, Jesus & Mary Chains, Slowdives and Rides- I always find myself holding new entries in the genre up next to the greats and seeing whether there’s any reason to put down those old records and listen to some new Kevin Shields-come-lately.

In that regard, Hyla’s Osaka has pleased me more than I was expecting. Behind the all-encompassing noise, the band go in a few different musical directions and they can be pretty interesting. Speaking of Kevin Shields, the most superficial thing you’ll notice are all the little samples of field-recorded Japanese ambience, phone messages, eight-bit jingles and other kitschy, neon echoes of Nippon. Do Hyla want to curate a new Lost In Translation soundtrack? Who can say? There is certainly a little of MBV in their sound, if for no other reason than the effusion of raw, supremely loud, but tuneful slacker rock; that ‘90’s sound that MBV tapped into and which Hyla have captured with an impressive degree of clarity after all this time.

There’s another echo of the ‘90s in there, one that’s much more manicured than those grungy sounds. It doesn’t happen all the time, but every now and then Hyla hook into quite syrrupy Britpop. Occasionally it had me thinking of The Verve (listen especially to Friends Are Enough), but when frontman Alex Hayes really goes for it his voice sounds most iconically like Suede’s Brett Anderson. It makes songs like Take Sides or Compass very pleasant indeed; shoegaze is no stranger to pop, but usually it’s the shy, retiring sounds of dreampop, not these big, glammy moves, going toe-to-toe with the ‘gaze.

The are more tricks in the Hyla playbook too. The band have been trying quite hard to point out how much they’ve taken to shoegaze’s skeezy American cousin: borrowing the gross feedback and uncompromising ‘tude of garage bruisers like Black LipsTy Segall or Thee Oh Sees and displaying it prominently on recent single Fraction.

Throw in a perennial favourite like the mournfully huge The Thousands -which has rung out on just about every release Hyla have ever pressed- and you’ve got quite an LP. This is both a record and a band adding a new landmark to the shoegaze map: giving nods to some of the greats, reviving things that haven’t already been rehashed and, almost improbably, making a few, boldly poppy moves, that are all their own.

- Chris Cobcroft.

Album Details

Album Title: Osaka
Artist: Hyla
Record Label: (LXVI)