Monday, March 11, 2013

Catching up with Saint Marie Records

Fort Worth, Texas may strike you as an unlikely locale for a taste-making indie label to set roots down, but that's where Saint Marie has operated for about half a decade now, dispensing superlative albums with an emphasis on new-school shoegazer bands, like Spotlight Kid who I fell over the moon for a few months ago on these pages.  I thought I'd dedicate some space to a spate of even more current Saint Marie titles, starting with Panda Riot's Northern Automatic Music.

A Chicago by way of Philadelphia four-piece, the Rebecca Scott-helmed Panda Riot have probably earned their fair share of Lush comparisons, but as pervasive as that particular influence might be (not to mention a woozy schmear of Loveless-esque magic to boot) P/R manage to punch a new hole or two in the tremolo asteroid belt.  Northern Automatic Music succeeds not only by virtue of the competence of it's architects, but by Panda's finagling of the ambient dimmer switch - just enough to keep you guessing which direction the knob is about to spin.  A bit derivative yes, but song for song, NAM is the product of a prodigiously gifted talent.

The obliquely monikered The History of Color TV don't square the dream-pop circle so much as shape-shift it into chilling, oblong permutations, thanks to a treasure trove of avant ebbs and flows.  Grandiose, engulfing, and frankly too challenging to define in a one-hundred word blurb, one thing's for certain - there's way more than My Bloody Valentine worship happening here.  Sweeping flourishes of synths and other electric accoutrements lend an cinematic air to History's seismic finesse, one that won't be lost on acolytes of everyone from Mew to Chapterhouse to Neon Indian.  Go ahead.  Try not to get swept up in Emerald Cures Chic Ills' staggering sonic tsunamis like "I Knew It Was Wrong..." and "Selisse Estates."   

Nightmare Air are another foal in the Saint Marie stable who straddle the digital/six-string divide.  Swaan Miller strikes me as a chanteuse in the offing, singing atop expansive aural vistas, not dissimilar to the ones explored by the likes of Silversun Pickups and Curve.  There's barely a dream-pop glint filtering it's way through High in the Lasers nine chapters of technical ecstasy, but you won't miss it.

If I've whet your appetite for what I've presented above, you're in luck because there's a handy (and very inexpensive) two-CD taster available, Static Waves, featuring pretty much the entirety of the SM roster, as well as a bevy of unaffiliated acts who to one extent or another brandish the same aesthetic, even if it isn't specifically within the dream-pop realm.  Standout selections by Lightfoils, Spotlight Kid, The Sunshine Factory, Jetman Jet Team, Bloody Knives, Blesses Isles, High Violets and Sway, make Static worth the price of admission alone, but on top of that, the bulk of it's 26 contributions are previously unreleased.  Physical copies of all the aforementioned are available direct from Saint Marie, and the usual digital peddlers. 

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