|Featured Band (6): Still Corners Summons the Spirits and Turns Heads|
|Written by DJ Space|
|Wednesday, 01 December 2010 23:00|
An air of mystery surrounds Still Corners. The band is based in London, England and plays ethereal dreampop, but the band members prefer to be nameless and - judging from their ghostly presence in the band's sole music video "Wish" and the heavenly tones of the singer's voice - for all intents and purposes they may in truth have spirited there from the ethers.
The band's Myspace page tells us little else about its members other than they are "looking for a sunset bird in winter."
Under "About Still Corners," it states, "This music was free and discovered" - which may help resolve any copyright issues. It continues, "While walking in the woods with loved ones we DANCED as the ashes of the departed swirled about us like whirls of snow and birch tree branches heavy with ice bowed to touch our faces slowly spilling their white glass to the forest floor," and adds, "We found in the mess of these silent shapes this light show and these reflected tones."
Thankfully, the band's website has a "Bio" page which informs, "With a deep love of film and sixties-sound production, Still Corners write dreamy pop songs, full of swirling organs, big drums and lush vocals," only stopping to tell us that the band is "building on a reputation for heart-stopping live performances" and "mixing film projection with soaring soundscapes." Mystery solved.
When it comes to what really matters, Still Corners' bandcamp page speaks volumes. Listen to "Endless Summer" to fall under this band's spell. "Don't Fall in Love" and "Wish" are equally enchanting. From the EP Remember Pepper, the lead track "History of Love" also demonstrates the magical qualities of this band. "French Kiss" is another stand-out track.
A little bit of research reveals that the Liz Fraser/Rachel Goswell/Bilinda Butcher sound-alike is known in her earthbound existence as Tessa Murray. There are four other members of the band from England, America, and Australia who play rippling organ, jangly/fuzz guitars, rhythmic bass, and booming drums in an apparent dreampop style: Greg Hughes, Leon Dufficy, Luke Jarvis, and Paul Mayhew.
"Greg's [Hughes] organ chords hauntingly reverberate and Tessa's [Murray] lyrics echo longingly of lost loves and young passion," i-D Online reported in September
With eyes firmly shut it is not too hard to imagine the spirits of the 80/90's Scottish shoegaze/dreampop band the Cocteau Twins, Reading's Slowdive, or Dublin's My Bloody Valentine in a lighter mood. Take your pick; there are arguments for each.
"We've been trying to collide different influences. From the Cocteau Twins and Velvet Underground to excerpts from old Italian horror movies, Westerns, works by Sergio Leone and Darrio Argento and Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti," founder Greg Hughes told i-D Online. "It's a mixed bag and changes every month but is always rooted in pop."
"We like those bands very much," Greg Hughes informed Clash Music in October. "To that list we would probably add Ennio Morricone, Broadcast, David Axelrod, Yo La Tengo, and Nancy Sinatra."
"We're all big movie fans, from older Italian horror to film noir to 60's stuff, westerns, Hitchcock," he added. "These types of films evoke certain imagery and make you feel a certain way that's unique to those time periods, we try to incorporate this into the music."
Hughes also discussed the songwriting process, "Usually I'll come in with a song and we take it from there. We sometimes like to have a few instrumental bits to let loose and see where those take us as well."
"They start simple enough, maybe just a chord progression on an acoustic guitar," he explained to i-D Online. "Drums and bass gets laid down and then we just keep messing around with it until it resembles something that speaks to us."
"I think songs write themselves and it's best to just get out of the way of them," he commented to 1forthepeople in October. "If a song wants to go somewhere like that it will tell you that and you just sorta follow it through. The faster you learn to get out of the way of a song the quicker you'll write better songs. I've been trying to get out of the way a long time."
The abstract videos that accompany each live performance are representative of the band's music.
"Hazy scenes are juxtaposed through shards of scattered daylight," i-D Online wrote.
"Preferring to remain anonymous, the London group flood the stage with powerful images," Clash Music reported.
"With the music we're trying to make you feel something and trying to expand that visually by using film projections," Hughes said in interview. "We want to turn the lights down on stage and create an atmosphere and some intimacy."
"We don't use any producers, everything is handmade with us. We've always had a very strong idea of exactly what we wanted to sound like and where we wanted to go with it."
The band name originates from a poem by philosophical poet Robert Frost, called "New Hampshire."
"I read a lot of Robert Frost, I love his work. His imagery evokes the wonder of nature and I wanted to do that with the band," Hughes explained. "The name Still Corners seemed to evoke that as well."
In recent years, American bands - including New York's The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - re-introduced the world to shoegaze and it is an obvious time to revive the formerly British music genre in the British Isles.
"Time goes by and various genres go in and out of popularity; they float up and they float back down. At the moment there's some really great bands doing music along these lines, bands like Beach House and Best Coast are writing great songs that have this sort of sound edge," Hughes told i-D Online. "I think the song comes first and the sound follows later."
According to the Guardian's Paul Lester, "there's a lot of groups putting 60s surf-pop, doo wop and girl-group art ache through a C86 [a reference to a cassette given away with the New Musical Express in 1986, which later came to represent a movement within the British indie scene] or MBV filter, and giving it loads of reverb, echo, delay and shimmer. Especially shimmer." About this band he comments, "Even in such stellar company, Still Corners stand out." He continues, "Of the five tracks we've heard, three are magnificent, two are plain gorgeous, and one may come to define a genre yet to be named."
"Sounds like the first frost," the band's website adds helpfully.
Still Corners' music has even been described as "floating antique lace." Hughes commented in an interview with wecantmixandwedontcare in August.
"Still Corners are dreamy pop mixed with choir girl vocals with a little noise thrown in," Hughes told 1forthepeople.
For all practical purposes, this is a good definition of 80/90's shoegaze.
Here are some prominent reviews of the band's stand-out tracks:
Don't Fall In Love/Wish on Great Pop Supplement - Track listing:
"Don't Fall in Love... a lovelorn shuffle that makes indie seem less like a joke and more like something you'd aspire to. 'Don't you dare fall in love,' warns the singer. We're in Julee Cruise/[cult TV series] Twin Peaks territory: love as obsession, as madness." (Guardian) "I had broken up with someone and wrote it out of that," Hughes explained to 1forthepeople. "The only samples used were some tears plip-plopping on the microphones."
"Wish joins the dots between forlorn indie-pop and folk." (Guardian) The video can be viewed here .
Endless Summer on Fierce Panda - Track listing:
1. Endless Summer
"Endless Summer... it's got the drum sound from the Jesus and Mary Chain's Just Like Honey via the Ronettes' Be My Baby, a female vocal that for sheer soft, spectral breathiness makes Rachel from Slowdive sound like Janis Joplin, and a series of sighing distress signals – we can just about make out 'summer ends soon' – over a hazy maze of organ and guitars." (Guardian)
"Endless Summer... sounds pretty much as you’d expect it to sound; dreamy, ethereal, summery. Mission accomplished." (Lauren Lavern, BBC Radio 6)
"Endless Summer... It’s a piece of celestial pop music that floats along with breathy female vocals, vintage organ and ends with the entry of some shadowy shoegazey guitars. It’s like falling back into soft cotton sheets on a Sunday, staring up at the blankness of the ceiling and enjoying the moment. Or casting yourself out into the sea at night, on your back, looking at the stars." (Breaking More Waves)
Remember Pepper? - Track listing:
"History of Love has the most basic structure – but that's OK; it only takes two chords, they just have to be the right ones." (Guardian) "History of Love" is available as a free download and can be listened to here.
"French Kiss... gives teen romance a sci-fi makeover with eerie studio effects and dub space that suggest [60's producer] Joe Meek and [dub musician] Lee Perry loom as large in their pantheon as [MBV's] Kevin Shields." (Guardian)
"Their sound has a retro-feel to it, - some 60s and 70s psychedelia mixed with 80s dreamy indie-pop and everything is blended together into a unique and beautiful sound, Eardrums wrote about the Remember Pepper? EP. "Reverbed drums, drone guitars, swirling organs, a distinct bass-sound and dreamy vocals slightly in the background of the mix. Their sound is huge, almost like a wall of sound, with lots of reverb."
After releasing the Remember Pepper EP in 2008, Still Corners returned to the ethers.
"After the first EP I wanted to take some time to let the well re-fill, write new material and see where it could all go. As more material started to bubble up to the surface we thought it was a good time to start releasing again," Hughes told Clash Music. "The newer material has a lot of the same big drum organ dreamy sound, maybe more guitars this time around and more focus on vocals."
"In early 2008 I released the Remember Pepper? EP. Shortly after that Leon [Dufficy] and I got together and gradually added members over time."
"Shy and retiring types, Still Corners only recently emerged from their collective bedroom," Clash Music wrote. "Playing a series of live shows, the band have won acclaim with a mixture of stunning material and striking visuals."
"Intricately textured guitars, haunting keys and powerful drifting rhythms are a cornerstone of most of these songs," Music Mule contributed in an April review. "Their ethereal sound is added to courtesy of a fair haired female front-lady whose dreamy vocals and truly perfected far away wistful look sit very comfortably on top of the band’s swaying soundscapes."
Following a live performance at London's ICA, Breaking More Waves reported in September, "They appear with an air of aloofness on stage, plug in and play – a hazy ebb and flow of rippling guitars with the deftest kiss of bass."
"[Lead singer Murray] looks like something out of a dreamy soft focus movie, her blonde hair trailing over one eye, her sixties styled attire suiting the ambience perfectly. She spends most of her time clasping the microphone stand with both hands, but now and then lazily taps a tambourine against her leg."
“You’ve probably noticed I don’t talk very much," Murray said. "That’s because I think the music’s more important."
Signing one off deals with some cult labels, with recent releases through Fierce Panda and Great Pop Supplement, incredibly Still Corners remains an "unsigned" act. Nevertheless, judging from the reception to both its recordings and live performances, it is clear that this band are succeeding in turning a few heads, and surely a breakthrough record deal will not elude Still Corners for much longer.
"If you were to assemble a bunch of tracks to give indie a good name, like a latterday C81 or C86, now would be the time to do it," Paul Lester informed Guardian readers. "And right at the start of that compilation – let's call it i2010 – should be Still Corners."
"There's chat here and there. We're no strangers to self-releases," Hughes concluded with Clash Music. "We're working on a full length album now and would like to find a good home for it."
Visit the band's bandcamp page and buy all of Still Corners' releases now lest record labels allow these shimmering spirits to disappear into the ethers for all eternity, or at least another twenty years.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 02 December 2010 14:41|