Shortly after our feature last year on the contemporary shoegaze scene, our in-house attorney obtained an injunction barring the writers from using the term "nugaze" - no doubt to squelch any looming journalistic cliches. (Hey, try saying "post-rock" aloud now without snickering.) Just the same, if the, er, shoe fits, go ahead and lace that sucker up. California's Sciflyer is dead-square in that context; guitarist/singer Steve Kennedy previously played with Chris Streng of Stratford 4, and Sciflyer has shared bills with Magnet n**gaze faves S4, Voyager One and the High Violets. Present here are enough submerged vocals and atmospheric blissouts to keep a Creation Records convention hopping for an entire weekend. The band takes its name from a song on the first Swervedriver album, and "You're From the Ocean" could pass for a long-lost Swervedriver outtake. Sciflyer is no one-shoe pony, however. Former Rain Parade guitarist Matt Piucci helped with the recording, and subtle Rain Parade-y moments can be heard on "Like an Ion", a marriage of vintage jangle-pop and thick, dreamy psych. The churning "Burn & Sell" has a Ramones-meets-Who three-chord wallop that no amount of blurry/woozy guitar effects can dilute. Propulsive and visceral yet unerringly melodic, Sciflyer's debut is a juggernaut ride to the ravedown.
Sciflyer is upbeat fuzz noise with an energy that could take you dancing or just leave you on the floor, staring at the ceiling. Bliss-punk? The songs sound like they would be perfectly sugar-sweet pop if they were played clean, but this band is not about clean. Echoing, reverbed vocals drift a little Dean Wareham-like through some of the songs, even though they are speeding unstoppable into a vibrant sunset haze. There's a nice 11-minute Verve-ish track that floats across the middle of the CD, and then it goes into some beautiful and lifting/lilting guitar sparkle that makes me feel like I've just been kissed.
-- BIG TAKEOVER
The debut album from this 3-piece noisepop/shoegazer act begins with the Helios Creed/Chrome-like psychedelic-garage-fuzz screamer 'Burn & Sell', then resolves to place itself firmly in the grasp of mantric drone-rockers like Loop or My Bloody Valentine. Vocalist Steve Kennedy is mixed so low in the mix as to appear almost transparent, but that just allows the densely-layered guitars to ebb and flow more prominently. 'Burning Down The House' (not a Talking Heads cover) is 12 minutes of lovely midtempo psychedelica packed with subtle drones and tones and a haunting melody underneath it all. That is followed up by the 60s-ish 'Come Up To My Cloud' which seems to channel The Byrds even, whereas 'Letting Go Of Everything' could be an homage to classic Jesus & Mary Chain, which is not a bad thing. An excellent and diverse debut that proves that Sciflyer have a bright future ahead of them.
Shoegazer. Noise Pop. Space Rock. Whatever label you want to place on Sciflyer‘s sound, I would call it blissful, atmospheric, and intricate. Their music soars into the atmosphere, but it is not all unstructured by any means. There are definitely hooks and sections to their songs. I think they have found a compromise between shoegazer, atmospheric blissfulness and song structure. They have the feel of a polished rock band hidden within layered guitars and blissful landscapes. Steve Kennedy also does a great job with his subtle vocal style and space laden lyrics.
“Karma” starts out with a track that was recorded on a four track. It’s a great opener for the album and feels very lo-fi while maintaining the bands musical integrity. “Burn & Sell”, the second track, is a song about betrayal. It has a catchy hook with great effects on the guitar. It’s hard to put into words what it actually sounds like. The guitar effect reminds me of the sounds one makes while playing the comb. Lyrically, it is a song about trust, or lack thereof, in a relationship. The album really soars on the 4th track. “Burning Down the House” is an atmospheric 11:57 minute track that never gets tiring. The guitars are beautifully layered and the bass adds a very subtle touch to this song. Perfect. Lyrically, “Burning Down the House” impressed me most. “it’s cold like a mars night/way out in the sky/i’m burning my house down, so go inside/like sparks from the arc-light/when our worlds collide.” I will not venture as to what they mean, because I could not decide whether it was good or bad friction meant by the song, so, I will let you decide. Needless to say, the lyrics on the whole album are a great read and they do a service to all their songs.
The only instrumental on the album is “Alpha Centari”. It is a mid-tempo, guitar layered track. What I like about it is that it does not drag on forever (it’s only 2:32). Sciflyer seems to have a great sense of when things might become too repetitive for the listener. Even their longer songs don’t ever get boring and they hold the listeners attention with tempo changes, change ups in the melody and other more intricate musical whimsies. The disc ends in a collide of feedback and sound, echoing the tumultuous lyrical content of all the previous tracks.
This disc is a solid effort. It’s thematic lyrics and strong song structures really give cohesion to the whole album. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
-- SOMEWHERE COLD
released July 22, 2003
Steve Kennedy - guitar, voice, tape
Kim Oberly - bass
Roger Chandler - drums
Larry Campos - drums on Come Up To My Cloud
Barnstorm recorded on 4-track cassette.
Tracks 2 and 3 - Basic tracks recorded by Scott Solter and Matt Piucci at 5th Street Studios, SF -- Overdubs and mixdown done on analog 8-Track tape at Area 52 by Steve Kennedy.
Tracks 4 and 9 - Basic tracks recorded by Ben Lund at Insta-Fame, Portland, OR -- Overdubs and mixdown done on analog 8-Track tape at Area 52 by Steve Kennedy.
Tracks 5 - 8 recorded by Larry Campos and Steve Kennedy at Area 52
Bonus track recorded entirely by Ben Lund at Insta-Fame, Portland, OR
Tracks 1 - 9 mastered by Scott McKenzie at Hecho En Mexico.
Bonus Track (10) remastered by Steve Kennedy at Area 52.
Clairecords / Tonevendor
81-D King St., St. Augustine, FL 32084
first we rise and then we fly...up to the sun, up thru the sky...you see them standing there with their heads hung high...your friends are standing there with their sunglasses on...we are coming home...we are barnstorm
Track Name: Burn & Sell
you're gonna burn me out (3x)...you're gonna burn me...you're gonna turn on me...that does concern me...yeah...you're gonna sell me out (3x)...you're gonna sell me...you're gonna tell on me...and say to hell with me...yeah.
Track Name: You're From The Ocean
it's the master plan...we'll blow ourselves apart...for the time is now at hand...this could be the start...we'll throw ourselves in...to the ocean...from the ozone...it's in motion...so crawl back to the ocean...and it goes on...that's where you're from.
Fadeout dialog from JAWS (1975 Universal Pictures)
Track Name: Burning Down The House
divided by dark light...a blank in my eye...it's cold like a Mars night...not sure how or why...i'm burning my house down and running outside...if i can be forthright...i know that i tried...a smoldering sunset going down in the hills...i'm calling off my bets...it's only free-will...it's burning my heart out...there's nothing inside...a smoldering sunset...the pull of the tide...we're guided by dark light...a plank in my eye...it's cold like a Mars night...way out in the sky...i'm burning my house down...so go on inside...like sparks from an arc-light...when our worlds collide.
Track Name: Come Up To My Cloud
somewhere in the ether...somewhere off the ground...just come up to my cloud and lay yourself down...your signal's distorted...can't cut thru the crowd...i can see you from my cloud...you're on my cloud (2x)...if you're not so anxious...and you're not too proud...then i might just ask you to come up to my cloud...so what do you dream when you're dreaming of nothing?...do you dream of my cloud?...so don't be so anxious...and don't get too loud...and i might just ask you to come up to my cloud...so what do you dream when you're dreaming of nothing?...do you dream of my cloud?
Track Name: Like An Ion
don't try so hard to make me feel like i'm alive, 'cuz i'm alright...it's all too much and i can't find the words to say that i'm okay...you can fly on...this energy, it is absorbed by bird and bee...and it's in me...completely free is all you'd ever want to be...can't answer you when you're asking me what i'm high on...don't try so hard to make me feel like i'm alive, 'cuz i'm alright...the money tree, it is abhorred by bird and bee...and the things they know come naturally...like an ion.
Track Name: Letting Go Of Everything
i'm here to say i'm letting go of everything...doesn't matter now what happens to me...begin today i'm letting go of everything...you can play but it's all just confusion...you might win but it's all still the same...you might say that i'm out of my question...do you know my name?...you can fly but you might drop your halo...you can run but it's always too slow...you might feel like you're some kind of hero...that shows what you know.
you're gonna burn me out (3x)...you're gonna burn me...you're gonna turn on me...guess that'll learn me...yeah...you're gonna sell me out (3x)...go on and sell me...you're gonna tell on me...and say to hell with me...yeah.