Shun Tanabe locates the serenity in obliterating noise.
Artist: Shun Tanabe
Since time immemorial rock music has formed such a tight bond with the distorted guitar that only MTV’s unplugged could tear them asunder. But it wasn’t always as easy to throttle an amplifier as it is today. Back in the day bands had to perform all sorts of machinations from actually overdriving vacuum tubes to mauling speakers to get the desired sound.
By the sixties-seventies, however, getting those sweet sounds was as easy as stepping on a stomp box or dialing you Marshall up to ten. Rock music grew up and distortion was just a part of its skeleton. You’d certainly have issues without a skeleton, but no one races out into the streets to celebrate its presence.
In the 80s, however, a couple of fine Scottish gentlemen reminded us that rock shouldn’t have stopped getting noisier. The Jesus and Mary Chain melded great fifties pop rock with blasts of feedback and noise. From there, shoegazers picked up that mantle and started not just using waves of noise in their songs as accompaniment, but started writing riffs made of guitar noise.
Blasts of high-volume sound suited rough and ready rockers like The Jesus and Mary Chain, but for shoegazers it is an essential, if not unusual fit. Most shoegazers make very placid, beautiful music, but need to perform at volumes that put modern rocketry to shame in order to bend and carve the sound to their will.
Shun Tanabe is embraces this contradiction. It’s all about destruction and serenity. Like anyone born and bred on alternative rock, he often uses soft reflective verses paired with oblivion defying choruses. The blasts of noise typically serve as a contrast to the verses, rather than moments of calm within his storms.
That is to say, Tanabe’s brand of shoegazing is one that uses blistering noise as one songwriting tool among many, not as the foundation from which all the music springs. In terms of overall sound one of Tanabe’s closest cousins would be the softer side of Alcest. Oddly, Alcest was once on the fringe of the genre, having more to do with black metal than shoegaze. Now, things come full circle and a new generation of shoegazers are taking cues from Alcest. The similarity primarily lies in the distant, almost chanted vocals and heavily strummed and echoed acoustic guitars. It’s a warm sound that Tanabe pulls off well. But when it’s time for an Alcest song to lift off, it goes metal, for Tanabe, he hits us with a stun gun of guitar noise.
Tanabe also taps into a similar vein of nostalgia as Alcest. This is sea gazing music. Picture the seaside views in Floating Weeds, or the child staring out the window in Ponyo.
In calmer moments the album evokes that feeling of your mind wandering as you gaze over the aquatic vastness, surrendering to whatever memories may come, especially childhood memories. This is music to watch the waves roll in by. But the music is not simple, not just pure nostalgia. Tanabe keeps his melodic themes intact when the noise comes down. So the placid memories of youth are destoryed by the crushes of modern life.