It's been observed that while the bleeding edge of what's cool continues onward, there are always plenty of people still exploring styles long deemed out-dated and as a result sometimes finding something new and exciting as a result. Such is the case with Pittsburgh's Lowsunday, led by open fan of eighties British postpunk rock Shane Sahene. Drawing inspiration from such pioneers of emotional, thrilling music as the Sound, Bauhaus, the Chameleons and Echo and the Bunnymen, vocalist/guitarist Sahene originally formed and led the group in the mid-1990s as a quintet called Low Sunday Ghost Machine. The band swiftly gained a passionate following for its dramatic if still slightly derivative music in its hometown, resulting in a self-released self-titled debut that captured its passionate strengths excellently and helped bring the group to wider attention. The next few years saw a shake-up in the group, resulting in the shortening of the name to Lowsunday and Sahene leading a completely new version of the band: Shawn Leslie on guitar, drummer A. T. Vish and, joining later, Bobby Spell on bass. Without Spell, Lowsunday recorded its strong follow-up Elesgium, showing Sahene and company building on the strengths of the debut to create a more original, complex sound. A growing reputation in the shoegaze/goth music underground was cemented with the band's signing to Projekt Records in early 2001; Elesgium was rereleased soon thereafter, while the quartet, with Shawn Bann replacing Leslie, made more plans for the future.
- Ned Raggett
This album is an interesting work of art. While shoegazer rock is not my favorite type of music, I found this album quite enjoyable. The ethereal elements that get mixed in are excellent, almost making the vocals "dreamy"which I don't find that often with male fronted vocals. I guess between my love for Mira's work and now this latest work from Lowsunday, I may be converted over to a lot of the great shoegazer; However, this album is definitely more upbeat than your typical shoegazer or gothic albums.
"Wallpaper room" starts out the album with a dreamy soundscape, ringing guitars and excellent vocals. Starting in a low dreamy state and gradually building to a climax that carries throughout the rest of the song. An excellent intro to this album. The grinding guitars and crashing cymbals finally fade out and give way to "She follows rain," another very upbeat track. This track has a very nice bassline throughout that I find quite catchy, along with the fading and echoing vocals. "Zuff"starts out with that bass and guitar loop that carries the entire song. Alot more mellow than the previous song, but still quite catchy and moving. The guitar loop in "Magic Memory" is the one that really is almost hypnotizing, especially towards the end when you feel like your caught in a trance surrounded by the palpable sounds from this cd.
Changing rhythm and style a bit we come to the next track, "elevate her." Grinding on with those guitars and hitting those minor chords, this song is hard-driving, but the vocals soften it up quite a bit, bringing back that dreamy feel to it. And now to my favorite song from the album, "Shine..." makes it all worth having! A beautiful mix of sounds and wonderful vocals ringing out.. "you shine on me..." This song may have been a chart topper back in the 80's and early 90's while now probably only those of us that really follow the underground music scene will really appreciate this song. "... to sleep" is a continuation of "Sine" but in a heavy, brooding way.. and finally drifting off, perhaps to sleep.
"Alone without" keeps up the fast beat, but seems to mellow the tone just a little from the rest of the album. "Human" is probably my next favorite song. Using an almost acoustic approach and slowing the tempo way down, it becomes a nice song that has a dreamy feeling to it. "Closer closer" picks up the intensity just a bit, but still uses that slower tempo. It begins simple enough, but builds up several times throughout the song to the intense guitar riffs. "Daystar" continues this melancholic, slow pace from the previous songs. "Disassembly" closes the album by picking up the pace a little bit. Almost an upbeat tune again, similar to those that started this album, it is definitely an intense ten minute long piece of excellent work.
A very new group to me, and just recently signed to the Projekt Label, Lowsunday is definitely a change in sound from the ordinary and even from other groups on this label. The closest comparison I can come up with from other Projekt signees is with Mira, both with their ethereal textures combined with grinding guitars that appear in many shoegazer artists' music. However, where Mira is fronted by a female vocalist, Lowsunday features male fronting vocals. I don't want to try to force too many comparisons and would just ask that you give them a listen for yourself. Their music is featured on Gothic Paradise radio shows and on mp3.com.
Everything about Lowsunday seems unlikely. A shoegazer band in 2001 seems unlikely. A shoegazer band from Pennsylvania seems unlikely. A shoegazer band on the Projekt label seems unlikely. But, above all, the most unlikely thing about Lowsunday is that they pull off being a shoegazer band with such grace and skill that the sound isn't dated or homogenized. "Wallpaper Room", the first track has the feel of Swervedriver. It's intense in nature, frustrated in melody, but smooth in feel. This is what made the shoegazer sound so perfect. All of these different elements and layers that should never have come together do so to make great music. Like most shoegazer bands of the last decade, each song by Lowsunday seems to make a stylistic reference to another band of the same cloth. "She Follows Rain" recalls the quasi-pop sound of Adorable. "Zuff" begs comparison to Disintegration-era Cure. While it easy to pick out influences, Lowsunday don't play on them as much as you may expect. Every song is a consistent abstraction of these influences, creating a sound that will be accessible to most, but just off the mark from being successful to a mainstream audience. "Elevate Her" borrows it's opening riff from The Primitives' song "Crash", but before you begin to feel like you've been duped into listening to trite Brit-pop, Lowsunday recover with a darker sound that's akin to an indie act like Idaho. Lowsunday embrace elements from a variety of places only to see them immersed in an aggravated state of chaotic beats and swirling guitars. Lowsunday have a talent for providing the listener with a familiar progression before spiraling the song into a mass of textures and layers that find the song light years from where it began. Lowsunday have moments of pretension peppered throughout the disc, but when taken for what it is, you begin to discover that the songs have more to do with spectacular songwriting than they do with lyrical posing. You can't knock any tracks on the album because while each song has it's own identity, the consistency of Elesgiem is unmatched. If you ever find yourself longing for the days when the Verve didn't begin their name with "The", this album is a must.
lowsunday's elesgium is glorious. Steve Albini once remarked that the problem with a lot of bands is that they're slavishly imitating bands everybody's already heard instead of copying interesting but obscure bands whose moves deserve to be copped. lowsunday, perversely but without even a flicker of self-referential humor, owe their most significant debt to Modern English, whose fame unfairly rests on their somewhat uncharacteristic hit single "I Melt With You." In the '80s, odd little bands like Modern English thought they could change the world, and (like New Order, another clear point of reference here) sometimes even tried to. It's 2001 now, though, and lowsunday have no illusions about their prospects for aboveground success, so the songs on elesgium average about five minutes in length and make no concessions to post-Talk Talk (or post-Talk Talk Talk) production techniques. Their guitars conjure visions of ripples spreading from a pebble's point of impact at the center of a pond, while their vocalist wholeheartedly rejects the self-defeating irony that made the '90s such a crashing bore and reaches for portentously huge, grandly echoing notes as ride-cymbals crash over and over against the one and three beats of each measure in the mix's high end. "Darkwave" is the unfortunate term applied to the sort of ongoing investigation of a few particular subcultural core values that's been undertaken by lowsunday's label, Projekt. Projekt deserves a closer look by anybody who's interested in questions of genre or style, and lowsunday are at least worthy of a listen or two. They're practically evangelists of a musical approach that replaces practicality with passion and feigned abandon with closely considered indulgence. As transcendent as anything you're likely to hear between now and the next Jean-Luc Guillonet album. Since sales figures indicate that there aren't many of you holding your breath for Guillonet's next move, you'd do well to look into this one.
- John Darnielle
An interminable pursuit of the perfect melody, with explosions of roaring guitars creating an exhilerating wall of sound. The texts alternate, as does the music, between rage and sweetness, moments of incomunicability, and others full of fresh hope: "We need an elevator...an elevator reach a place where we finally reach understanding", sings Shane Sahene in the brilliant 'Zuff'. Well, what could be better than this splendid Elesgiem to raise our hearts and minds?
A review from Meltdown Magazine (UK):
| 4 out of 5 - genre: dark indie | Lowsunday exhibit somewhat more rocky leanings than some of the more traditional Projekt material, however, they still retain an air of dreaminess about them. This is certainly more along the lines of indie rock and there's something about it that reminds me of early 90s bands like the Mock Turtles and the Lemonheads, during their It's a Shame About Ray era. Defined on the press release as "shoegazer rock," Lowsunday have something about them which is reminiscent of the Velvet Underground, but more contemporary. Maybe it's the darkness of tracks like "She Follows Rain" and "Shine...." Whereas at other times, they're pure The Cure's "Lullaby"-era gothic. Quite indefinable but very listenable. - Jane Bennett
FLOWING RETROACTIVE DARK DREAMPOP:
| 4 out of 5 | This impressive debut has a certain charm to it that will find it landing with delight in the record collections of goths and shoegazers alike. While trying to make it as a musician in Pittsburgh, PA would be enough to depress anyone, their Bunnymen-esque, melancholic tones are not so overstated as to drag them into the murky waters that drown many gloom rockers in silliness. Rather, they create effective moods with a nice balance of low pop vocal hooks, sweeping guitar textures, and soft locomotive rhythms that keep each track moving along into the next with amazing cohesion. Lowsunday, (formerly Low Sunday Ghost Machine), manage to evoke a remarkable 80s post-punk, pre-goth vibe while still remaining fresh. At times they recall brighter elements of Joy Division and The Chameleons in the voice department. Hints of Flock of Seagulls' spaciness, Pulp's nouveau-mod panache, and Kevin Shields' love affair with layered effected feedback place this recent Projekt signing in the right path to ride some of the momentum from the current Britpop and dreampop revival. - Jason Myers
The music is moody, majestic, emotional, beautifully textured '80s-compatible drama-rock with shimmering guitars and heartfelt vocals pining for a rainy day. Those are words you could apply to goth, of course. But also U2, whose admirers would more than likely warm to the sound of "Elesgiem" in a matter of seconds.
-the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Who would expect to hear that one of the greatest '80s Brit rock bands is actually from Pittsburgh?! OK, Lowsunday wasn't around in the '80s and the band is not British, but they could easily be mistaken for something similar. Their self-proclaimed genre is "shoegaze: dreampop: ethereal: ambient: indie: darkwave: darkpop:" … and they couldn't be more right on. The band's latest release, Elesgiem, has 12 tracks of progressive indie pop that border goth with sometimes gloomy vocals. In fact, vocalist Shane Sahene seems to be lost somewhere between agony and ecstasy, fighting for equilibrium. In songs like "Elevate Her," which is probably my favorite track, Sahene spits out lyrics like "It's unbelievable/ how this day has went/ distortion/ more than the usual/ loved and lost" in a drab manner that actually gives you hope. This is perfect music to listen to through headphones on a warm, sunny day when you're alone. Solitude.
Simply put, Lowsunday are modern indie rock brilliance. They fuse melancholic 4AD type textures with catchy pop melodies that instantly hook you, and from then on there is no point in even trying to escape the smoky wonderland created by this band, and you won't want to. Their alluring melodies and arrangements are so inviting. They have great potential, and they have the chance to be THE band to usher forth a mainstream interest in gloomy pop.
Lowsunday waste no time launching into full-throttle deep-fried wastecase glory, opening this CD with the Jesus-and-Mary-Chain-style buzzfuzz anthem "wallpaper room." I liked it immediately, regretting only that Shane Sahene's vocals get so lost in the mix. The bouncier "she follows rain" finds me speeding my brains out on the London underground - huh? I haven't been here in years... "zuff" immediately ups the ante, introducing a web work of delicacy that could easily be broken by too much reliance on distortion; but which holds together with a Mission-esque symmetry. I've never seen Lowsunday perform, but I can't help but wonder if "magic memory" might work better out of the seclusion of the studio. It really seems like it would be an excellent live offering, with its almost nursery-rhyme feel and comfortable swing. "elevate her" pumps up the energy another notch - yes, I'd like to see this band play live. Few bands bother with live drums any more, and A. T. Vish is a good reminder of the power and enthusiasm we've been missing. The more I hear, the more there is to like. Lowsunday are nothing if not cohesive, hearkening back to New Romanticism's brief but brilliant affair with post punk grittiness. It was doomed, of course, but they didn't care, and we didn't either, and neither did Richard Butler. These are the orchids rubbed to bleeding because hell, they'll be dead tomorrow anyway, and who's going to stop us? "shine" brings out the trip-warp awake-for-three-nights repercussions, and celebrates them too, because what else is left to do? For all the signature feedback and semi-intentional overtones, Elesgiem (presumably named for the acronym of the band's former name, Low Sunday Ghost Machine) offers a satisfying variety of moods and tempos, with bubbles of sweetness rising regularly through the seething tingle of sound and flashing open like someone else's escaped memories suddenly flickering across your past. This is a first-rate CD, a shoegazer's paradise and a Britpopper's cozy little purgatory, crafted by real musicians who know how to use excess rather than simply hide behind it. Tie off, crank it up, and flange your brains out.