Across my time spent playing in bands (in the studio, practice space and at gigs), I worried a lot about my distortion tone. When my DanElectro Fab Tone broke, I worried about it even more. It was always just that little bit too brittle, too tinny, too harsh or too mechanical. I craved warmth that my setup couldn’t quite deliver – something I could sink into. It didn’t help that I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. The wave of boutique fuzz and distortion pedals that now sweeps the internet was yet to reach my shores, so I just kept on being disappointed by my output. Maybe it’d be better next time. Sometimes it was: we once played a support slot in Cambridge where only the other bands and the sound technician showed up and that was the best we ever sounded. Mostly, however, it wasn’t. I just went on worrying.
Brisbane’s FOREVR have reached into my brain and stolen my ideal tone. More broken than Loveless, more impressionistic than Siamese Dream, more inviting than Forget the Night Ahead. It’s the most beautiful fucking noise I’ve ever heard. I want to email them and ask what they’re using so I can replicate it, sit in my house and waste my life in thrall to its lure. It’s my Mirror of Erised, and the fact that this debut Demonstration EP was recorded live actually makes me hate FOREVR a little bit.
Irrational bitterness aside (it’s a day of trying new things), all the fuzzy tremolo dive action in the world means nothing without the means to use it in the service of something greater. Like real, identifiable emotion and the wherewithal to write music that delivers on its tonal promises.
That’s the biggest hole in today’s crop of what I’m contractually obliged to call shoegaze acts. There’s been a massive amount of effort put into replicating the appropriate sounds, but they’re masking a hollow centre. m b v wasn’t lauded because Kevin Shields finally got around to releasing a new record, it was done so because he and his band built on their past achievements and still found new ways of affecting the listener. The fact that bands still fail to understand this is baffling. There’s a famous Bill Hicks bit about passion in music that you should know by now.
FOREVR get this. Opener ‘Yucatan’ drops in abruptly, seemingly at its midpoint, like your streaming service had rudely cut you off before suddenly resuming. It’s a treacly river of fuzz and synthesized sound, with Sam George-Allen’s lilting vocal melody just below the surface. To make my second children’s literature reference, I want to get in it, Augustus Gloop-style. Yeah, it sounds a bit like My Bloody Valentine and a bit like Cocteau Twins, but there’s a subtle distinction to be made: there’s no way that you would mistake any songs on Demonstration for either of those bands.
As the four-song EP develops, George-Allen and guitarist Donovan Miller stamp their authority with increasing confidence. ‘Heart of Ice’ lets the vocal influence the song’s direction, with the instruments taking their cues from drone and ambient music, before ‘Midas at Night’ drops huge, bassy notes into your left ear in a strangely triumphant dirge. It’s affecting in the way that an unexpected chord change should be – a rush of emotion, a boost of serotonin and then gone.
And since there’s only four songs, I’ll talk about closer ‘Forgive’ now. Here we get a more defined rhythm section, with basslines that move unmoored from the rest of the EP and electronic drums loping alongside. It’s no more than a different shade of the same colour, but it demonstrates expert attention to detail. Despite this EP’s short gestation period (the band formed less than a year before its release), the songs feel laboured over, as if all other options were exhausted before they realised that they could only sound the way they’re presented on the EP. As first impressions go, I’m basically in awe of what FOREVR have done here.