On their second album, Reappear, Washington DC’s Koshari manages to simultaneously evoke the sound of the shoegazer movement of the early 1990’s and establish themselves as an original voice. There are a number of stylistically familiar elements present here – the reverb-heavy, droning guitar sound periodically enlivened by phasers or tremolos, or Barbara Western’s indecipherable vocals, mixed louder and performed more forcefully than one might expect, but still strangely elusive.
They are far from a simple nostalgia act, however. Koshari incorporates enough distinctive elements to distinguish themselves from some of the modern bands mining similar territory, like the trippily lo-fi and excruciatingly named The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, or the fuzzed-out grunge of Silversun Pickups. First is the presence of a number of songs performed in waltz time – a simple tactic that introduces some variety and reveals a greater degree of musicianship and forethought than one often finds in a subgenre noted for using effects and volume to mask technical ineptitude. In fact, the rhythmic component is one of the greatest strengths of Reappear. Even on songs in more conventional meters, the drumming has a lighter, jazzier touch than the dancefloor-inspired percussion commonly associated with this style of music. The overall effect of such a style gives what might ordinarily be the most stable element of these songs a freewheeling, unpredictable feel that complements the spacey guitars and vocals.
Unfortunately, Koshari does not avoid all of the problems endemic to shoegazing. Records in this tradition tends to get a little repetitive – even the masterful Loveless, the album that sold a thousand pedals, can engender fatigue in listeners reaching a saturation point for dense, distorted guitars and hallucinatory effects. Koshari are at their best when they push themselves away from a template sound, as on the tricky uptempo track “Etched in the Head”, or when they pursue a particular element to its logical extreme, like the unaccompanied feedback coda on “New Song (Barcelona Song)” or the slow, cough-syrup vibe of “Cloaked and Draped.” Of particular note is the penultimate track, the eight-and-a-half minute “Seep In”, which is characterized by a heavy and beguiling instrumental interlude that begins to evoke stoner metal bands like Kyuss. Koshari also recognizes the importance of melody; every track has at least one immediate hook that identifies it as an actual song rather than three to six minutes of vibe or atmosphere.
Koshari might not be the most innovative band ever to commit songs to tape – even at their most unique and interesting, they are clearly operating within the tradition established by bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, and Ride. This is not necessarily a bad thing, though. A sense of tradition and reverence does not preclude the possibility of a band producing new, worthwhile songs in the same vein as its predecessors, and Koshari are as effective an example of this as anyone is likely to find. As long as My Bloody Valentine remains famous for never releasing any new material, fans would do well to check out Koshari.
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// Notes from the Road
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