Usually when an artist describes themselves as “ambient shoegaze” it would act more like a repellent for this blog, causing us to quickly immerse ourselves in something ass-kickingly rocking, like Led Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times, or Slayer’s Raining Blood, or we’d rush off to swag around with a turned-up-to-eleven blast of Ante Up, or any other musical equivalent to receiving a bucket of water facially. It’s not that we’re particularly against that style or genre of music, but most of it is so heart-stoppingly piss-poor that it mostly bores our souls into a coma and we find ourselves desperately reaching for something to plug ourselves back in. Bedroom producers both sides of the Atlantic have churned out the drifting, sloth-paced haze for years now and only on the very rare occasion does an artist actually hold our attention long enough to stop our fingers hovering over the delete buttons. Today we deliver to you a new group that’s successfully avoided the index finger of doom. These guy’s are doing it just right.
Not to be confused with The Soft Boys, or Soft Cell, or The Soft Pack, or anyone else guiseing up as something cushion-esque, this is The Soft, an un-signed trio from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, consisting of Henry Morris, Zander Fletcher and William Glass. They seemed to drift in and out of a handful of music sites early last year, after Cave Chorus Records put out a digital copy of their tune, Mind Fuck. And what a mind fuck it was! It showed off the kind of stop-you-in-your-tracks beauty that they’re capable of, although inexplicably it’s no longer on their Soundcloud. It’s worth hunting out though, as it’s cruising groove and middle-class, Mirrors-like vocals have charm and grace poured all over them like smoke from a dry ice machine. Sure you could attach the usual descriptors, such as “ambient” and “shoegaze” to it, as they enjoy their music to wave up to the beach like liquid and there’s perhaps an over-use of the echo button on samples, but like The Weeknd, or before them Washed Out, they always place their mostly-gentle riffs and well-considered hooks and breaks in the perfect positions. The vocals also give the music a welcomed focus.
Take their song, Tropisms, which starts out like a broken robot’s alarm that’s trying to get its owner’s attention, before they introduce a bassline that’s as smooth as a (Lemon) jelly mould expands in the background. The calming, English voice, sung by Henry Morris, then rounds off the tune like a Hot Chip ballad. Synths and samples break up the gossamer in sharp stabs, but it never comes apart at the seams. It’s a difficult set of plates to spin in one song, but they manage it masterfully, as he calls to a close the words, “I wish I was your tessellation“. Half Breath is also of a minimal design, utilising what sounds like a ping pong game in slow motion as a rhythm, developing a slightly more melancholic colour palette, as Zander Fletcher sings of taking the blame. It soon drops in a pulsating beat, once again puncturing the mist with gorgeous details. It’s a tune that’s also had an enjoyable remix completed by recent Recommendees, Sundae Club, (who we think have just given us the exclusive first listen below). Like all decent remixes, they’ve created something fresh from the broth of the original, introducing an almost Visage-esque, 1980s Fade To Grey backdrop.
There are other tracks available to hear on their Soundcloud, mostly taken from their six-track Hot Summer EP, which was released at the end of 2011. It has many other highlights, such Venus Breath, which confirm to us that they have an understanding, well beyond their young ages, of how to marry melodic electronics with an otherwise ambient buffet. You see, rather remarkably, this trio got in touch with The Recommender recently and explained to us that they’re all only 18 years of age and just coming to the end of their last year at Sixth form! Once they get through school they plan a full touring assault on the UK, assuming they can continue to garner enough coverage and traction in the music media. We think they have enough talent to earn lots more plaudits and with a group that is this inspired with ideas we can expect plenty of new productions from them throughout 2012. “Ambient shoegaze” may well be their choice of genre, but take it from us when we tell you that there are more complex depths and intricate skills on offer with this trio than the pigeon hole suggests. It’s more likely to wake you up rather than put you to sleep, so you can definitely put that bucket of water down. (MB)
THE SOFT – TROPISMS
THE SOFT – VENUS BREATH
THE SOFT – HALF BREATH (SUNDAE CLUB REMIX)