Is Bliss: Velvet Dreams (Club AC30, 2016)
Is Bliss is a psychedelic shoegaze band that hails from Portsmouth, England. The band is a trio that consists of Jimmy Stuart, Dean Edwards, and Sam Speakman. This five track EP is their first outing as Is Bliss and the EP is a grand mixture of 60’s hazed out psychedelia, soaring shoegazey walls of sound, and a giant helping of bliss pop. The trio produce a huge sound which was hammered out during live improvisations. Pat Collier (Swervedriver, The House of Love, Primal Scream) takes the helm as producer of this EP and his work is superb.
Velvet Dreams begins with “Morning Sun” and the listener is instantly introduced to glittering guitars that turn into waterfalls of sitar. The drums and bass drive the song forward while the vocals are dreamy, evoking a smoky drug den or free love event from the 60’s. That said, one can still feel the shoegaze influence here because the vocal track is still sunk into the mix while the cymbals, high hat, and guitar work to produce a noisy wall of sound. “Realise” feels like The Cure, Slowdive, and The Prayer Chain were all mixed into a single band. The vocals on this song float over driving bass, which is reminiscent of Simon Gallup’s work while the drums are emphatic pushing the walls of sound forward. The energy level of the track drives it to its conclusion as if one were about to fly off the edge of the proverbial cliff.
“Truth” brings more of an aggressive tone, as the song plods more than drives. Everything is loud, blissed out, and bleeding a gothic influence. The wall of sound is a whirlwind of anxiety tempered by nothing. The cascade of sitar falls out of the speakers once again on “Ocean Blue”, reminiscent of drugged-out Beatles or dreamy pop bands like The Turtles mixed with a healthy dose of Slowdive. The guitar work is exquisite and since there are two guitars playing off of one another in this track, I hope they find a way to reproduce it live because it is fantastic. The last track is entitled “Lure”, which begins with the bass line sitting all alone for a few bars until the drums join. The guitar weeps amid the percussion as dreamy loops float through the arrangement. Reverb saturated vocals float across the soundscapes. “Lure” is the finale to the EP, it is the longest, and it is the most patient of this handful of songs.
Is Bliss’ first outing is a wonderful teaser for what hopefully is to come. The heavy fusion of psychedelia and shoegaze is refreshing. From cascading sitar to walls of sound, Velvet Dreams is a strong first outing that any fan of the genre will want to own.
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