She Bit Her Lip is an Estonian band hailing from Tartu. They are on Estonian label Seksound Records, the label of fellow Estonian band Pia Fraus. The band consists of Siim Kallson (drums), Taavi Ilp (bass), Martin Seiler (guitar), Peeter Anijalg (guitar and vocals), and Risse Soomets (vocals). Their debut album, Viiv, came out in 2015 and physical copies are scarce. I finally managed to get one from a record store in Estonia, where I think the only new copies on the planet are left for purchase. She Bit Her Lip bring a glistening brand of dream-pop mixed with off-kilter, swirly shoegaze. Further, the band doesn’t disregard its roots and sings all its songs in Estonian, which I find to be lovely.
“Uni” kicks of Viiv with warbling, sparkly guitar that leads into a dreamy soundscape. It’s instantly clear that this band is something special. Soomets has a smoky, classic tone to her voice that is soothing and inviting. The guitars here include acoustic over a wall of bright sound, creating beautifully contrasting textures. The electric guitar soars as the vocal creates this infectious tonal melody. “Kajaruum” (Space Echo) begins with deep, reverbed out guitar and acoustic guitar as well. The electric guitar moves into spacy territory, creating shimmering walls. Soomets and Anijalg sing a duo here over a fast-paced tempo. When they are silent, the tempo slows down and the shoegaze elements really come out. Ilp’s bass tone is wonderful and plays about in-between the dreamy lushness and the undergirding percussion of Kallson.
“Eile” begins with picked reverbed guitar but quickly, acoustic guitar becomes prominent. There are whispers behind the guitar and then full vocals come into the mix. This is a beautiful dream-pop song akin to Club 8 but with guitar parts that eventually soar with shoegaze elements. However, this composition is allowed to breathe and walls of sound are sparse and only used as accents. It is almost entirely instrumental and the various guitar tones and accents are perfection. “Laotan tiivad ja lendan” begins with aggressive drums and bass. Guitars jangle and acoustic guitar adds what is becoming a signature feel for She Bit Her Lip. The track slows and opens to make space for Soomets gorgeous vocals. When she’s not singing, the instruments scurry about, creating a gorgeous cacophony of sounds. Shakers and tinny high hat add accents to the overall feel, giving it even more depth.
“Klaas” (Glass) lives up to the title with shimmering, swirling guitar work providing a floor for Soomets angelic voice. Anijalg joins in as a duo adding harmonies to Soomets already captivating voice. The piece is repetitive, but in that captivating, entrancing way that draws in the listener. Once the repetitions break, the guitars just trill and soar. “Lähen üksinda” (Going Alone) begins with what sounds like an acoustic guitar and then the bass kicks in, welcoming the rest of the band. It’s a mid-tempo piece with a pensive feel in spite of the walls of sound and epic feeling soundscape. Soomets almost speaks her words on this track, giving it a very personal feel. “4-15” has walls of sound out of the gate and fuzzed out guitars. However, once the vocals come in, acoustic plays without electric guitars. The tempo eventually slows and dreamy vocals sunk into the mix slowly spill forth. The guitars swirl and circulate in an oblique pattern.
“Voolav viirastus” (flowing specter) has a Slowdive feel right out of the gate and then it quiets, with vocals being prominent and guitars playing in conversation with one another. She Bit Her Lip, while utilizing clear influences, never stays within those influences too long and really does make the shoegaze and bliss-pop genre their own. The way in which they compose songs is unique and all the elements cogent and perfectly fit, even though they move from loud guitarscapes to quiet acoustic guitar moments in the same track. “Tempo” is appropriately named as it begins with only bass, vibrating lowly in the speakers. Reverb and delay-heavy guitar accents the bass with singular notes picked slowly until the drums and a second guitar joins. Seiler and Anijalg are a guitar duo worth listening to as they clearly have creative chemistry with one another. This is primarily an instrumental track and it gives the overall piece an epic, cinematic feel. There are hills and valleys, movement, and a sense of hope at the peaks. “Valguse kiirusel vaikuses” (The Speed of Light in Silence) is hardly silent. It begins with a guitar tone reminiscent of the best post-punk bands of the 80’s. It then turns into controlled chaos before beautifully harmonized vocals occur. It’s a brilliant finale to what I think might be a flawless record.
She Bit Her Lip’s debut album Viiv moves from bliss-pop glory to shoegaze guitarscapes. We are in the midst of a shoegaze revival, with bands coming out of the woodwork which means a lot of music that isn’t up to snuff. However, She Bit Her Lip have come into that scene producing an incredible record. This is shoegaze and bliss-pop perfection. There are no missteps here. If you can get a copy of the CD, I highly recommend it. If not, get it on digital.