Astrobrite and lovesliescrushing, two brainchildren of Chicago multi-instrumentalist Scott Cortez, should have been more prevalent torchbearers during the early-'90s materialization of shoegaze, but their relative obscurity isn't undue. Astrobrite was more or less a bedroom project that never fetched the enrapturing warmth of Loveless nor the crystalline sheen of Souvlaki despite Cortez's gift for songwriting and guitar processing. lovesliescrushing in this period were more refined, with Melissa Arpin-Duimstra's breathy echoes drifting above Cortez's lush drones. Material such as xuvetyn were more listenable in theory yet were a formless alternative to championed acts.
lovesliescrushing were never the most accessible, but they've always been one of the most consistent projects within this circle. For the past 16 years they've yet to make any striking digression, and any disputants should consult Shiny Tiny Stars. Released as a collection of unreleased four-track recordings from '91-'97 and material as recent as last year, it's baffling how coherent their assemblage is. Cortez and Arpin-Duimstra haven't sapped their unearthly passages of mesmeric influence; if anything, a frequenter of lovesliescrushing may happen upon nostalgia and wonder, a relic of forgotten memories. We knew it once before, but reacquainting ourselves with it becomes a sublimely comforting experience.
Shiny Tiny Stars's faint exoticism can be attributed to mood. Dimly tuned strains loom over the album, imbuing each piece with sunless gauze, which Handmade Birds attests to by its inclusion in the label's Dark Icons Series. Bare branches quiver and rustle against a nearby windowsill on the opener, with a diaphanous and patient guitar creeping back and forth along its brooding key. Nebulous and blurred are the windswept hums of "Gloxina", in which Arpin-Duimstra's voice wavers glacially amidst, like a gale's whistle shrouded by heavy downpour.
Late fall progresses into winter just on the precipice of Shiny Tiny Stars's latter half. With its effervescent cadence "Luminareal" encapsulates the carefree elation of shaping snow angels. While on the subject of snow, the obscured harmonies of "Snowfell Husher" can be observed like a blizzard through one's window; the snug indoors veil the shower. The closer "Overdose" floats upon Arpin-Duimstra's physically transfixing exhalation, and nearing 15 minutes it implies a slowing down of time, as if watching the squall settle seemed less gradual than it did in reality. Thoughts have wandered without misplacing themselves.
How lovesliescrushing kindled these ideas in their music and the cover of Shiny Tiny Stars is somewhat elusive, though not an absolute mystery. Capturing these emotions, images, and sounds and attaching them to one another in such a way brings the listener closer to the artist to the extent that the two have shared moments as geographically distant from one another as they may be. lovesliescrushing's successors have expressed similar features while eliciting altered sensations: Grouper's foggy tone brings about a sheltered, cabin-like environment, whereas Motion Sickness of Time Travel's Rachel Evans's misty intonations upon vivid synthesizers call from an extraterrestrial realm. Even after years of recording, Cortez and Arpin-Duimstra with Shiny Tiny Stars have drawn out altogether enthralling ardor.
[Buy Shiny Tiny Stars from Handmade Birds Records]