España, Spanish Shoegaze & Dream Pop guide, Vol. 1
When I started grad school I initially thought that the American Studies’ focus was strictly on the process by which America came to be. I came to learn that in fact, the international is highly relevant to the creation of the American identity. This transnational shift in the field emphasizes the study of US culture on an international scale. How have other cultures influenced our culture? How have we influenced other cultures?
Enter my favorite genre, shoegaze. This genre of music originated in the UK in the late 1980s. This genre would go on to influence American music and ultimately many others. The name shoegaze came from a criticism, which is not a surprise. Most classifications of art and music come from these sorts of judgments. Just like the Impressionists got their name when Louis Leroy called their art simply, “impressions,” the term “shoegaze,” elucidates the genres features. Shoegaze is identified by its mystifying vocals, fuzzy guitar distortion and evanescent feedback. When performing these artists were constantly using their distortion pedals, and thus spent entire shows switching pedals, staring at their feet.
The sun never sets on the British empire, not even in music. It is interesting to see the different interpretations of British shoegaze on the international scale. There are many talented musicians in the list that will follow, and yet why are these artists not as prevalent as other shoegaze artists? Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the American or British music scene; although we have a great deal to share with the world, the world also has a lot to share with us.
“Spanishgaze,” is Spain’s amalgam of shoegaze, and their interpretation of the genre is flawless. Just like any other music genre with sub-genres, shoegaze moves on a spectrum. To the far right we have the dark, and to the far left, we have the dream pop. In the moving towards darker, we have rock, noise and electronic ambient. You will find that all of these artists on this list are under the umbrella of shoegaze, but each artist but each artist has their own unique interpretation of the genre.
Iván González Gancedo, Eva María López Castro and Mari are a three-piece band that sit somewhere between dream pop and “rock.” This group was founded in 2005, after Gancedo and Castro left the punk-influenced band, Juniper Moon. The dreaminess of shoegaze and the urgency of punk-driven guitar chords are the overarching influence.
Although dream pop is evident in the music as well, for this band the ethereal dreamy synths do not create the melodies and are not the driving force in the tracks. Instead, these upbeat synths punctuate the fuzzy guitar driven music. Although this brand of shoegaze is clearly influenced by their punk background, this band can also characterize as post-punk revival, with large injections of dream pop.
The propelling beat and dazed guitar riffs from their 2009 debut album, Bucles Infinitos, “Nadie Se Dara Cuenta,” is reminiscent of New Orders’ “Ceremony,” further emphasizing the post-punk inclinations. The 2018 single “Primavera Negra,” opens with an airy glittering synth, similar to Beach House’s scintillating synths. If we look to bands to compare Linda Guilala to, we can name Slowdive and Los Planetas, with an air of The Jesus and Mary Chain.
“Primavera Negra,” means black spring, this song title reveals a great deal about the genre and the band. The feelings that spring emote are bright, hopeful, and sublime. By naming juxtaposing the “black” imagery with the bright spring aesthetics, Linda Guilala expresses their own brand of shoegaze best in this song.
Iván González Gancedo-battery and programming
Eva María López Castro - voice, keyboard, programming
Bucles Infinito (2009)
Linda Guilala (2017)
Primavera, Single (2018)
While reqlly from Quito, Ecuador, Sexores have lived many years in Barcelona and were part of the Spanish music scene.
Take synth pop down a notch, dilute the brightness with dark shoegaze, add a dash of atmospheric dream pop, then you’ll have the Sexores. Their band camp candidly states, “echoes and synthesizers.” This band’s experimentation with these two techniques adds to the dark hazy atmosphere created by Dream Pop influences.
Amongst the vast array of influences we hear in the Sexores music, I hear a lot of Beach House influenced echoes and arpeggios. I also hear a great deal of The Radio Dept. echo-like synths. In an interview, from the always great The Blog That Celebrates Itself, the band stated that their biggest influence is Wall of Sound, but elaborate on other influences: OMD, Tears for Fears, The Human League, The House of Love, The Soft Moon, The Radio Dept. Also, we love Glasvegas, Dirty Beaches, Beach House, Dum Dum Girls, The Raveonettes.
In that same interview, the band states that they have a “crush with the 80s music.” It's clear in their work that they are heavily influenced by the 80s post-punk scene as well. Together with their other influences, the Sexores’s music is a perfect execution of dark dream pop and shoegaze.
Their Line-Up is:
Emilia Bahamonde- guitar and vocals
Their musical work to date is:
Amok and Burnout (2011)
Historias de Frio (2014)
Red Rooms (2016)
Seven Tin Stars
Behind the group Seven Tin Stars is Pablo A.G., working alongside friends Fernando De La Flor Prieta and Fernando Del Rio Alberdi. The three also share an additional project “Gente Joven.” This band is a more traditional manifestation of shoegaze with fuzzy reverb guitars, slow driving beats, and indecipherable foggy lyrics.
On the shoegaze spectrum, Seven Tin Star s sits in between noise and electronic/ambient. Their newest song “Skyline to Reorder,” is featured on a compilation album titled “1 Year Of Emma.” The characteristics of this band of also sit somewhere in between dream pop and “rock.” The band’s emphasis on ethereal, almost obscure lyrics highlights another essential shoegaze identifier, utilizing vocals as another instrument. Their slow but driving drums and reverberating guitars are reminiscent of bands like Slowdive, Yume Bitsu, and Ringo Deathstarr, but I find that the greatest resemblance is to The Radio Dept.
The Line-Up is:
Pablo Alvarez - Vocals, Guitar, and Keyboard
Fernando de la Flor - Vocals, Guitar and Keyboard
Fernando del Rio Alberdi - Bass and Keyboard
Their musical work to date is:
“Goodbye Stars Daylight is Coming” EP (2015)
“Return to White Tide” EP (2016)
As we continue our exploration of Shoegaze, this next band Blacanova, leans more to the right side of the spectrum but is not relegated to one subgenre. Blacanoca’s repertoire spans many shoegaze sub-genres. They incorporate a unique mix from the array of genres that emerged from the darker side of early shoegaze and early post-punk.
With a tinge of pop and experimentation with multiple layers of distortion and fuzz, each song is so distinct with their unique combination of influences expressed differently in every track. Because of these ranges of style, it is difficult to place Blancanova’s style on one particular place on the spectrum.
As I continued to listen to the band’s discography, it was interesting to observe this band’s experimentation with so many different sounds. But above all, Blacanova’s influences are dominated by the early post-punk era. Blacanova’s sound is the embodiment of post-punk and throughout more recent releases I heard the most classic post-punk influences: The Cure, early U2, Depeche Mode, The House is Love, The Go Betweens, Love Spirals Downward, and more
Overall, below the surface, you can hear bright tones punctuated by the gloomy haze of the mellow bass. Especially this year’s release, “La Cabesa.” With the mellow dark bass tone, the early post-punk influences are seemingly identifiable. Every time you listen to Blacanova you’ll hear something early sound you hadn’t caught before.
Self titled debut “Blacanova” (2010)
“Como Ve El Mundo Un Caballo?”-(2012)
“Regiones devastadas” - (2015)
“Las Cabezas” (2018)
Hailing from Madrid, Munic! makes a bold decision by choosing to sing in English. Their dark take on post-punk shoegaze incorporates loud reverberating guitars and repetitive mellow bass lines. The driving bass lines create a sense of urgency complimented against the assertive distortion of the guitar.
Their style has industrial undercurrents incorporated with occasional dark pop. Their punctuated driving and loud guitar are similar to their contemporaries like A Place To Bury Strangers, and also influenced by older bands like My Bloody Valentine.
The dark pop with dark guitar riffs creates somber atmosphere. Munic! lives in the dark lands of shoegaze, with bands like Whirr, Skywave, Astrobrite and Alcian Blue.
Their line-up is:
Núria Estúñiga (Bass)
Jóse Angel Diez (guitar)
Andres Morillo (drums)
Leandro (vocals + guitar)
Their musical work to date is :
Enemies, EP, 2015
Perfect Place, LP, 2015
The Surface, EP, 2016
The band’s Bandcamp states that they are a dream pop, shoegaze band from Barcelona. While I agree that this band is shoegaze, I wouldn't lump entirely into the dream pop category. In my opinion, they lean more towards the alternative shoegaze rock, with injections of dream pop.
My conceptualizations of dream pop are airy ethereal bands like Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star, Cranes, Beach House etc. I would say that Últim Cavall is alternative rock related and uses genre-mixing to create their unique shoegaze sound. They incorporate some soft synth, but these lie below the surface. Their shoegaze is style is similar to the Pale Saints, where the rapid guitar is often the primary focus. In slower songs that don’t contain this swiftness, the reverberating guitars are still the primary focus.
With guitar as one of the primary focuses, I see their style most also influenced by Brit pop and post-punk. Especially with the track “La Casa Cremant,” from the album of the same title. On this track, the fast pace post-punk inspired drums remind me of bands like Chapterhouse. The majority of their most popular songs on Spotify are medio lento guitar driven tracks. Each song has a different take on the shoegaze genre. One song can lean more towards alternative rock, while others like “Serem silenci,” are more traditionally dream pop, with its soft guitar and twinkling synths.
Their line-up is:
Rafa Monzó - Guitar, Vox & Synth
Francesc Pascual - Drums & Lyrics
Jordi Moncho - Bass, guitars & keyboards
Valle Plaza - choirs
Their musical work to date is:
Ultimo Cavall, EP, 2015
Kyoto Records, LP, 2017
Mossegades, LP, 2017
La casa cremant, LP, 2018
We hope you enjoyed this guide, and discovered or revisited some of these great artists. And do not hesitate to recommend other for our volume 2.