Saint Petersburg’s Blankenberge capture the essence of what makes shoegaze extraordinary and necessary on their soaring and cinematic third album, ‘Everything’.
2021 might be remembered for launching the Gothic art-punk (Squid and Black Country, New Road) movement and reigniting the love affair with shoegaze. With respect to the latter, albums from Flyying Colours, Wednesday, Makthaverskan, and Deafheaven showed that the genre still could be reinvented without losing the otherworldly and often cataclysmic euphoria associated with it. As the year nears its conclusion, one more band offers a reminder as to why shoegaze will live for eternity.
Never ones to abide by conventional rules, Blankenberge released their third album on Sunday. Everything is everything that defines shoegaze’s cinematic greatness. It is, in other words, a dazzling spectacle that captures the power and emotions of the music created three decades ago. Opener “Time to Live” soars with the breathtaking spirituality of Slowdive in their prime. Through the chiming and reverb guitars and the pounding rhythms, front-woman Yana Guselnikova’s pixie-like vocal rises to tell us to live in the moment. “There is no better time to live / Than here and now”, she sings with hallow effect.
This theme of living in the here and now is repeated on the beyond dreamy “No Sense”. A sense of peace and calm sets in at first before the song gradually intensifies. As it reaches its cosmic peak, Guselnikova delivers some advice for all to heed:
“Life is so beautiful
I know it for sure
Sometimes it seems like a waste of time
But it’s not true”
“Different” is at first an alluring shoegaze number that builds into a Cocteau Twins-like sonic explosion. The turbulent approach reflects the story of two people going their separate ways after they realize they were not made for each other. A celestial effect is achieved on “Forget”, on which drummer Sergey Vorontsov and bassist Dmitriy Marakov’s deft yet probing rhythms add a stark quality. They provide the element of desperation to Danill Levshin’s illuminating guitars, and, thus, elevating Guselnikova’s anxiety. “I can not do anything / And even if I could / I have not enough energy / To make myself be understood”, she vulnerably sings.
Just as it seems the band could not ascend to grander heights, they unveil “Everything”. The album’s centerpiece is a journey into the cosmos, integrating Explosions in the Sky-like post-rock tones with Deafheaven’s dramatic vision of shoegaze. It is also a masterful display of how urgent percussion can turn a familiar sound into pure catharsis. While her band mates approach oblivion, Guselnikova stays grounded with her words.
“Do you really want to be happy
Then don’t be afraid of losing
Don’t you try so hard to get more
Don’t you see you have everything?“
“Summer Morning” is more wintry in its effect, as Levshin’s guitars pierce with the jarring reverb of My Bloody Valentine. Guselnikova’s story, too, is part fantasy and part post-apocalyptic fairy tale, as she recounts feeling the sun’s warmth after a devastating time. The instrumental reprieve, “Kites”, provides a momentary break, as lush guitars create a sense of tranquility. They then bleed into “So High”. Akin to Lush’s output, the track alternates between beautifully atmospheric and crushing reverb. The approach mimics the image of a kite swirling in the wind, which is an analogy to dream big and believe in the impossible.
On “Fragile”, Blankenberge deliver an epic finale. It rises and falls, it is heavenly and crushing, and it captures the essence of what makes shoegaze extraordinary and necessary. Or as Guselnikova says in her final words, “But all we need someone / To help us understand this life”. And that is why shoegaze will never die.
Blankenberge are: Yana Guselnikova (vocals), Daniil Levshin (guitar, synth), Dmitriy Marakov (bass), and Sergey Vorontsov (drums). Everything is streaming on most platforms and available for purchase on Bandcamp.
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