It took three years for Highspire to get their debut released back in 2003. Its follow up has taken even longer not that it’s particularly noticeable given that ‘Aquatic’ seems to be rooted in 1991, perhaps even more so than its predecesor. Still based around frontman Alex White and multi-instrumentalist EJ Hagen, this American duo are certainly faithful to the music that inspired them.
True to form then, Highspire take the early 1990’s route of “walls of sound” and blank vocals; frequently recalling the likes of Chapterhouse and Ride. ‘What Lies Before’ is one of the stronger earlier tracks thanks largely to its insistent jangly melody but many of the earlier tracks pass by in an amorphous blend of layers. Surprisingly, the second half is better than the first with Hagen in particular raising his game. ‘Dusted’ is noticeably edgier; driven by melancholic hooks and effortless vocals whilst ‘Dead By Dawn’ is the closest they get to My Bloody Valentine; often the hallowed ground for fans of the FX pedal. Meanwhile, the infectious finale ‘Joke’s On You’ emulates the underwater guitar sound suggested by the album title.
As an album, ‘Aquatic’ is more like a pastiche of shoegazing in its pomp than the kind of record which breathes new life into the genre. Therefore, its appeal is likely to be restricted to those who remember the scene first time around but as I got into the album it revealed more treasures than I’d initially given it credit for.
Ride, Chapterhouse, Stellarscope, Daniel Land And The Modern Painters