Release Date: Sep 23, 2014
Record label: Graveface Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Dream Pop, Noise Pop, Shoegaze
Having slowly built up a rep as one of the more interesting and exciting bands on the shoegaze/noise rock/dream pop revival circuit, the Bay Area quintet Whirr took a slight detour from their usually energetic, almost sprightly sound into more noisily ambient, slowed-down, and murky territory on the 2013 EP Around. This change in approach informed the direction of group's third album, Sway, quite heavily. Apart from the opening "Press," which kicks off the album with a hard-charging, almost ferocious noise pop attack, all the rest of the songs hover somewhere between deep sleep and waking dream, with drummer Devin Nunes beating the life out of his kit in slow motion and the rest of the band crafting waves of glacial noise for Nick Bassett's vocals to drift through like melancholy smoke.
Whirr have clearly defined where they want to go. Around steered them in a more dissonant and darker direction, limiting any pop sensibility or lighter tones that may have been attached to records past. One year later, Sway is the exclamation point that they're bent on, swimming in more dreary atmospheres while meshing an emotionally taxing shoegaze vibe with heavy post—punk narratives.
At the peak of shoegaze in the early 1990s, bands gravitated toward monosyllabic names: Lush, Ride, Curve. Although they're a generation removed, Whirr's made no secret of their affinity for '90s shoegaze; their name certainly fits the bill, and their music to date has been a love letter to fluid, guitar-rich pop songs. Their 2012 debut album, Pipe Dreams, had more angularity and dynamism to it than 2013’s Around EP, but the basic formula was the same: My Bloody Valentine circa the brain-liquefying Isn’t Anything mixed with the softer suffocation of Slowdive.
Shoegaze’s loveliest quality can often be its most frustrating: monotony. There’s almost always the hushed vocals, the wall of distorted guitar, the reverb-tinged snare drum pops, and that hazy, overall swirl. Not every song employs this formula, yet it’s prevalent if you listen closely. Whirr’s sophomore LP doesn’t try at all to reinvent shoegaze, and this turns out to be a wise, welcoming decision.