Sour Cherry Bell starts as it means to go on: from the first reverb-laden vocal on Lowlight and the first distorted, droning bassline it's clear that this is a record of modern-day shoegaze, heavy yet dreamy and ethereal at the same time. The record does not rely on percussion for its sonic impact, as it's reduced to echoey background noise in tracks like Cherry Bell Blacktop and The Steelyard. Instead MJ Guider lets the synth layers congeal into a fuzzy mulch as unintelligible lyrics float over the top, a formula that remains so constant that the album often sounds more like a suite than a collection of standalone tracks.
MJ Guider's first two releases, the 2014 EP Green Plastic and 2016 full-length Precious Systems, were gorgeous fusions of ethereal dream pop and ambient techno that dipped into goth/post-punk-influenced waters. Her second album, 2020's Sour Cherry Bell, arrived after the New Orleans-based artist had toured with Baton Rouge sludge/doom metal group Thou and performed at the 2019 edition of the esteemed Dutch heavy music festival Roadburn. The album immediately takes on a darker tone than its predecessor, as Melissa Guion's weightless vocals float along with waves of shoegazey distortion on opener "Lowlight.