Review: Walleater – s/t

Bursting from the musically fertile breeding ground of Leeds, Walleater are a burgeoning bunch of plaid-clad youngsters armed with a plethora of effects pedals and a set of musical influences that is almost exclusively based in 90’s guitar music drawn from both sides of the pond. On their debut tape release, A Masking Aura, Walleater appeared for more infatuated by the vague song-construction and slacker lo-fi aesthetic of Pavement, to the extent that the tape featured a cover of Pavement’s ‘Grounded’.

Their latest self-titled EP is a logical continuation of their first musical outing – it’s more refined, at times more muscular and alternately delicate. Yet, it also exhibits moments of introspection and outbreaks of churning noise that remains synonymous with the shoegaze brigade and its current revival. Third track ‘Glow’ opens like an early Swervedriver jam, bearing clear lineage to the Oxford band’s equally expansive take on American alt-rock. But half-way through, the otherwise delicate and resplendent instrumental is submitted to a decimating yet resplendent rapture, where guitars open up like a hole in the clouds and flooding the song with a coruscating distortion that is quite spectacular. It’s a moment of pure aural bliss that was once perpetrated by the likes of psychedelic noise-niks Spacemen 3, indicating that Walleater, consciously or not, have swapped some of their wholly American, Stephen Malkmus-indebted slackerisms for the quintessentially British counterpart.

But Walleater have far from outright abandoned the apathetic stylings of their debut tape, the remaining three tracks continue to draw kinship with the immense guitar distortion of grunge and alternately, the shy and ultra-sensitive postulations of classic emo. Opener ‘Give In To Me’, the track most comparable to their A Masking Aura tape, posits a rather twee synth line over oceanic guitar distortion- providing perhaps the neatest embodiment of Walleater’s aural aesthetic. The vocals however, maintain their dispirited baritone although subtle harmonies in much of the record’s understated choruses impart some much needed depth and dimensionality to an otherwise incoherent mumbling. ‘Just A Boy’ and seven minute closer ‘What Do You Know?’, opening with delay-ridden clean guitar intros, maintain a similar coalescence of grunge and emo that marked out Balance & Composure’s early output before they decided to gear themselves squarely towards arena rock. Both tracks are sumptuous in their intimate delicacy, the band eschewing their penchant for hiding behind a mountain of impenetrable distortion to reveal themselves in a manner that’s more subtly affecting than the noisy maelstrom of ‘Glow’ and the grungey drive of ‘Give In To Me’.

Walleater maintains a brilliant balancing act between American and British manifestations of alternative guitar noise. There’s enough raw emotional subtly, stratospheric psychedelia and propulsive grunge to appeal to fans of each sphere. However, each track seems to belong exclusively to each of these camps to the extent that they could easily be labelled as “the emo song” or “the shoegaze song”. Walleater are a band still striving for a wholly unique sound and despite their array of guitar-based influences, they’re still yet to figure out how to blend their more abstract attributes with their equally affecting emo-isms. But until then, Walleater is still a fantastic little record of hushed introspection and expansive, blissed-out empyrean clamour.

4 out of 5 high fives!

Review: Walleater – A Masking Aura [EP]

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!