Collectively, the members of Horsegirl are most likely 20 years youthful than their most up-to-date affect. Gigi Reece and Nora Cheng are school freshmen, Penelope Lowenstein a highschool senior, however Variations of Trendy Efficiency glows with the drowsy warmth of 30 years’ price of indie rock. Relying in your age, you would possibly hear Yo La Tengo or Stereolab within the featherlight vocals; perhaps the fats, crayon-streaked guitars of Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis or Constructed to Spill’s Doug Martsch. The longer you pay attention, the extra the album resembles a hedge maze made out of acquainted references—the yawn of the whammy bar on “Bathroom Bathroom 1” swirls in some My Bloody Valentine, whereas Cheng’s hen name of a melody on “Stunning Tune” evokes Laetitia Sadier. If a bunch of younger folks picked up some guitars to make a blurry, pleasing sound at any level previously seven presidential administrations, you’ll hear echoes of them right here.
Horsegirl are breakout members of a largely teenaged Chicago indie scene, and their debut comes decked with auspicious cosigns from scene elders—John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth) is behind the boards, whereas Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo play on “Billy” and “Stunning Tune.” It’s a praise, then, to say that Variations might have come out in 1997, or 1987, since that’s completely the purpose. Indie rock of this period was loose-fitting, and to be able to make it work, everybody has to play that approach—hugging the downbeat too tight would curdle the vibe, as would a very busy bassline. The sound has to stretch, like a canine within the solar, in any other case you’re not doing it proper. Lowenstein and Cheng, who commerce vocal duties alongside guitars and six-string electrical bass, manipulate fuzz tones like batted balloons, whereas Reece hits the cymbals like somebody throwing paint buckets at a barn. They’ve acquired the steadiness good—no explosions, only a regular, nervous churn constantly disrupting the music’s placid floor.
This haze presents glorious cloud cowl to cover songwriting surprises, and Horsegirl take the chance. You may need to hearken to “The Fall of Horsegirl” twice to appreciate the hook is solely Lowenstein counting quietly to 6. “Anti-glory” begins rumpled and messy earlier than pulling taut for a refrain by which they merely snap “Dance!” at you, like they’re tossing firecrackers at your ft. “Billy” builds up a great head of steam earlier than dashing up unexpectedly and veering right into a nook.
If there are good surprises all through on Variations, there are not any revelations. From the studied perfection of its guitar tones to the vocals that intently mimic their heroes, Variations is a bit like an apprentice’s masterwork, an indication that they’ve absorbed their classes. The lyrics are fragmentary, open-ended, and infrequently arresting (“I’m on the run from the severed leg of my son,” from “Possibility 8”). However any capital-S Statements that Horsegirl would possibly make are most likely percolating someplace in that soupy sound, ready for the proper second—hopefully album two—when they may emerge. For now, Horsegirl aren’t a lot carrying the torch as they’re holding the pilot gentle lit, low and regular.
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