I find that people generally fall into two categories when it comes to “shoegaze,” a brand of alternative rock known for it’s dense use of pedal-based guitar distortion, ethereal vocal sections, and most importantly, maximum volume.
Some are ardent supporters, championing the genre for its innovative approach to guitar-based rock music evocative of emotions both sad and blissful that you can just as easily move your body to as fall asleep to (hint, hint).
The rest are those who haven’t actually heard any shoegaze, but know that any genre that named itself after it’s purveyors’ long-mocked habit of staring at their shoes while they perform (because that’s where the pedals are, bro) could not possibly be worth shit.
Daze is a band that is likely no stranger to that conversation, having been one of the few around town playing dream pop and shoegaze shows for a while now, including a recent stop at last years End Hip End It music festival — with perhaps a few line-up changes in between. Their most recent EP, Ritual, is a well-crafted take on the now-classic genre with a somewhat heavier edge.
Opening with “Eulogy,” just over a minute of ambient whirring overlaid with alternating guitar tones, the album establishes its haunting tone quickly. While peculiarly eerie, the intro isn’t useful for much more than setting the mood of what’s to come.
Switching gears to a more classic shoegaze sound with “Joven,” with guitar drenched in reverb but drum progressions fast enough to keep you moving, once the band gets going it’s hard to nail them down. The chords meander in the bridge and verse but sharpen up around the hooks with a sound that’s almost progressive rock. And in classic gaze-y fashion, I have no idea what vocalist Nikki Mixon is saying.
Sitting in the middle of the record is what I would consider the most cohesive track on the release, the softer, dream-pop cut “Another Day.” In the song, Mixon bemoans the monotonous regularity of ordinary days.
The lyrics move through lines like “let me simmer this mood away, it’s just another day” and “I’m pretty messed up, I need some time to be alone” before giving way to raucous guitar and drum progressions — the latter of which by drummer Enrique Inocencio are tight and on point throughout Ritual — somewhat emblematic to me of the stress-induced outbursts that the mundane routines of life can often lead to, a succinct characterization I think of the spirit behind the album itself.
Skipping ahead past “Guilty,” a strong throwback to Emo rock, and “Temper,” a sort of twangy ballad about anger, is the album’s closer and my personal favorite, the aptly named “Sleep.”
“Sleep” finds the band shedding some of the harsher sounds of the more “doomgaze” accompanying it on the rest of the EP and seemingly embracing the flanged, shimmering guitar and Kevin Shields-esque vocal arrangements of classic British shoegaze.
Genre commentary aside, the record is an impressive one in its brief, sub-twenty minute run time (probably for the best as the bands sound does feel a bit rehashed as the EP develops). It’s also a sharp example of the wall-of-sound production feel that is so common in this stripe of rock music, likely with the dynamic assistance of engineer Austin McCain who helped in recording and handled the mix and master.
Pick up a digital download of Ritual on Daze’s Bandcamp now,or give it a listen on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music today. Be sure to catch them around town next time you have the opportunity.