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Shimmer - And I Revel Music Album Reviews

Chewing the foundations of rock into gritty sludge, the New York quartet proudly makes music that sounds loud, messy, and wrong.

Each of the four members of New York band Shimmer have spent the better part of the past decade exploring the frayed fringes of rock music. Anina Ivry-Block and Nina Ryser make chattery, absurdist miniatures as Palberta. Paco Cathcart’s solo endeavor the Cradle is an idiosyncratic exploration of “analog natural jank.” Simon Hanes, once a member of the psycho-surrealists Guerilla Toss, makes intricately arranged instrumentals as Tredici Bacci. As exploratory and otherworldly as their music is separately, their work together is stranger and uglier than anything they’ve made on their own. Shimmer take the foundations of rock music—the flailing riffs, soaring harmonies, stuttering drum beats—and chew them into gritty sludge.


The clearest evidence of this comes midway through their 2017 debut, when they hit a segment of a song called “Not Fade Away” that draws on the oft-covered Buddy Holly standard of the same name. The guitar parts are sickly and curdled, ping-ponging in and out of rhythm and key. The drums stagger wildly. Ivry-Block sings an approximation of Holly’s first two lines in a desperate yowl, then spends the rest of the song making up the words or singing outright gibberish. The whole song is so crumbling and busted that it’s tough to even call it a cover. Maybe it’s not. It is demonstrative of their approach as a whole: proudly making music that sounds loud, messy, and wrong.

Shimmer’s second album, And I Revel, is a refinement of this overarching idea, insomuch as it concentrates the acidic bite of their music more strongly than ever. From the first moments of opening track “Bring It to Me Now,” Shimmer’s component parts congeal into an acrid ooze. Cathcart and Hanes’ guitar and bass lines swim around one another, seemingly agnostic to the martial plod of Ryser’s kick drum. Ivry-Block screams over the top in a painful-sounding squelch that’s more or less impossible to decipher.

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Pieces like these feel similar to what they’ve done in the past—and, for that matter, to a lot of bands who have drawn on the lineage of no wave’s atonal rasp—but they’re better than ever at manipulating the dynamics. “All the While,” for example, follows the record’s squirmy opening into a jittery, ecstatic energy that sounds like an AmRep band too caffeinated to see their frets straight. Smartly, there are quieter moments throughout And I Revel, too. The melting ice cream truck interlude “Wet Absence,” the music-box melodies of “Enter the Rounds,” and the hymn-like ballad appended to the end of “Nightvision” only underscore the record’s terrifying disjointedness.

Unlike a lot of bands working under the broad umbrella of noise rock, Shimmer don’t rely on many obvious effects or studio tricks to carry the weight of their wonderfully ugly recordings. They’re dry, which amplifies their bludgeoning nature—it’s as if there’s nowhere to hide, no corner safe from the bulldozing energy. If it sounds upsetting, that, on some level, is the point. But consider: A host on Antiques Roadshow once took a taste from a bottle of urine, human hair, and old brass pins and, based on the rusty, oxidized taste, thought that it might be vintage port wine. There’s less distance between disgusting and beautiful things than you might think.


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About Udara Madusanka

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