Astral: Sleepwalker

[4 May 2008]

By Andrew Martin

I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to shoegaze. I love the dreamy vocals trying to escape the noisy guitars. I love the simplistic, yet vital drums that seem to take a life of their own. From My Bloody Valentine to A Place to Bury Strangers to everything in between, there is just something about the sound that grabs me and never wants to let me go. That being written, let me introduce you to Astral, a group that combines shoegaze with garage punk, mostly due to the 8-track analog tape used to record. Headed by singer-guitarist Dave Han, Astral is one of San Francisco’s promising shoegaze revivalists.

On Sleepwalker, the band’s second full-length, you’re met with a style that’s initially not very demanding of your attention. As you continue listening, however, the album grows on you something fierce. Tracks like “Cracked”, “Waterfall”, and the M83-inspired “A Lullaby From” are breathtaking and solemn. Also, the instrumental “Winters in May” plays like hints of sunshine covered in snow.

For all the album’s strengths, it’s not without its weak spots. Han’s vocals hinder the flow of certain tracks. And although singing has never been the point of shoegaze, they play an important role of being an additional instrument. He does redeem himself on the title-track, though. Also, some of the tracks just don’t work. But by the time the crunchy drums and droning guitars are over, you’re left with a solid album by a group that’s sure to blossom in the coming years.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/astral-sleepwalker/