What if Stephen Malkmus wasn’t such an arbitrator of trashy lo-fi noise? What if, instead of fiddling around with his vintage four-track recorder, he indulged in the odd delay pedal? What if, instead of his apathetic stream-of-conscious drawl, he adopted an Ian Curtis-via-Texas partially indeterminable mumbled baritone? Well then, he’d be pretty much ripping off Walleater, that’s what. A Masking Aura is three songs, including one cover, of some darn fine mid-90’s American indie. Despite the ‘Grounded’ cover, this isn’t simply a paean to Pavement – or indeed, the fathomless quantity of obscure alternative rock acts that together formed the post-grunge US indie movement. Walleater offer much more than a dose of squalling guitar and lashings of self-conscious defeatist irony. In fact, much of their melody-driven delayed guitars place the band in an oddly similar territory to the so-called ‘Wave’ bands that brought US hardcore into a more cerebral and Tumblr-friendly state of being. Indeed, ‘Pig Pen’ would sit comfortably on an early Balance & Composure E.P with its highly emotive guitar bends and down-tempo grungey intro riff underpinned by that half-mumbled baritone. ‘Peel’ however, is all about layers of noise – great blocks of chaotic, distorted sound sliced through by the simple melody line of an exceedingly cheap synthesizer. If it weren’t for the cloud of fuzz surrounding the track, accusations of ‘tweeness’ wouldn’t be wholly ungrounded. Thankfully, there’s a solid wall of guitar noise to dispel such fears.
They may embody much of the rollicking slacker aesthetic of Pavement’s four-track indie, yet also exhibited are inklings of distinct inward-facing existential postures that characterised the moping army of effects pedal aficionados commonly referred to as the ‘Shoegaze’ movement. Projected onto ‘Grounded’, their treatment of the originally stark instrumentation is here smothered in noise, the chorus beefed-up with a great slab of distorted guitar. Elevating his baritone, the vocalist adopts his best Malkmus impression- mimicking the slacker pin-ups idiosyncratic stuttered vocal delivery on the verses as well as the wails of the expansive chorus.
Within these three tracks, Walleater exist between a number of styles and aesthetics, firmly refusing to wholeheartedly commit to any. This may leave the band as a somewhat logical amalgamation of influence, but they’re a thoroughly engrossing prospect perpetrating a dense noise-feast that doesn’t shy away from clear-cut melodies or more rocky inclinations.
4 out of 5 high fives!