With sophomore efforts that follow up buzzed-about debuts, there’s nearly always a negative expectation plaguing the record. When the band in question goes through personal turmoil and lineup changes, that negative expectation can go to even further depths. That is what makes Reveries so astounding. Instead of sounding beaten down, Maribel sounds rejuvenated and matches their debut Aesthetics tit for tat. All of the reverb-drenched haze is still intact. The strangely simultaneous feelings of foreboding and hope, and their excellent grasp on structure, haven’t diminished in the least. There’s a certain thrill that comes with listening to a band so expertly defy expectations, so much so that it can be easy to overlook some flaws in spur-of-the-moment enjoyment. While Reveries does eventually reveal some cracks, things could have been much worse.
Much to the advantage of Reveries it kicks off with one of the strongest Maribel tracks to date, “Falling Down the Stairs”. Everything about “Falling Down the Stairs” works together so fluently that it might be tempting to overlook how much is actually going on in the song. As is generally the case with the best songs in the shoegaze genre, it’s delivered with an effortlessly casual ease that balances out piercing reverb and feedback that all but bury the soft pop that’s at the song’s core. There’s a particularly brilliant guitar/noise solo that transitions the male vocal lead to a female vocal lead and approaches a visceral level of intensity. Just like that, Maribel manages to evaporate lingering doubts about their ability to deliver a decent follow-up despite enduring their share of turbulence.
After a start that strong, it would’ve been easy for the record to recede in terms of quality, but Maribel refuse to back down, instead delivering an onslaught of mid-tempo distortion-tinged fever dreams. While none of the songs are able to surpass the opener, the fact that the ensuing track “Jezebel Jive” comes as close as it does is nothing short of miraculous. “Meow” mixes a frantic (yet oddly restrained) drum pattern with meditative ambient performances but highlights the band’s biggest weakness: the slower songs. The moments where Maribel gnash their teeth and decide to get vicious with their noise influences stand out the strongest. While they infrequently litter the slower songs and are subsequently made all the more stunning for their brief appearance, there’s just an energy to the band that lacks in the softer moments.
That problem is particularly evident in “You Bring the Sadness” and gloriously absent from the following number, the eerie, African-influenced “Pretty Nights”, which begins with the female vocalist purring, “Last night we lost forever, city lights were brighter than ever, cool winds were dancing with daggers, chasing restless souls”. Those lines are the perfect representation of Reveries’ core lyrical content which lends itself to the music perfectly. “Pretty Nights” ends up being one of Reveries’ standouts merely by stretching boundaries and tinkering successfully with formula. It’s a slightly terrifying moment that also manages to be exciting and memorable, like the best horror films. “Perfumed” continues the direction that “Pretty Nights” took but pulls back the reigns a bit and manages to become even more terrifying. It’s one of the only moments where Maribel manage to slow things to a glacial pace without losing an ounce of intensity.
Reveries ends with a fairly effective three-song run but none in the final sequence matches the heights set by the pairings of “Falling Down the Stairs” and “Jezebel Jive” or “Pretty Nights” and “Perfumed”. It’s slightly disappointing that the band opted to go out with a sizzle instead of a bang, as their talents are more suited to the latter. While all of the final songs are pleasant enough and certainly demonstrate the band’s penchant for atmosphere and structure, they fail to really ignite and grab the listener by the throat. However, when the highs are as towering as the band achieves here and presented as consistently as they are, the moments of inconsistency are very easy to deal with. It also helps that when Maribel does lose some of its momentum, they’re still writing songs a lot better than the average shoegaze band. Ultimately, this stands up most as an indicator of Maribel’s unwillingness to back down and offers a glimpse into their potential future. All things considered, things look pretty exciting.