Bizarre: Beautica (Seksound, 2017)
Bizarre is a dreampop/shoegaze band hailing from Estonia. Setting the stage for the dreampop/shoegaze scene in their country, Beautica was originally released in 1994 on cassette. The band consisted of Anti Aaver, Inga Jagomäe, Mart Eller, and Tristan Priimägi. There are two drummers credited on the album: Siq and Remsa. It is a historic piece of music since it pre-dates the advent of Pia Fraus, arguably the most well-known of the Estonian indie bands. In many ways, Bizarre paved the way for bands like Pia Fraus, She Bit Her Lip, and others. Like so many labels have been doing, Seksound gives the world the gift of this re-release. Many will be hearing the band for the first time and some will get to revisit nostalgic music they thought they would never own on vinyl or at all for that matter. Bizzare’s bass player from their second album, Lauri Liivak, mastered Beautica for its vinyl release.
Beautica begins with “Slow”, a song that starts with beautifully warbling guitar. Reverb-laden bass and slow, bright percussion then join in as male and female vocals swim in the recesses of the measured wall of sound. Guitars swell over the composition, sometimes in bright melodies and sometimes in fuzzy, aggressive flurries. I find the bass work to be particularly striking here alongside Siq’s utilization of the crash and high hat. “Ornaments” utilizes a guitar tone that makes one feel as if they are underwater. It is bright but heavy and has a deep wave to it. Jagomäe takes lead vocal, creating a dreamy, ethereal feel of floating along a river of sound. Over the sound-driving, bright guitar plays lavish melodies drenched in reverb and delay. The track ends with a repeating, delayed guitar which transitions beautifully in “Beautica”.
“Beautica” has an incredibly distinct hook that is hypnotic. The vocals and bass part really play as counterpoints to the glistening guitar work. High hat dances amid what is almost sonic chaos. However, the band holds to the edge, pushing, and even tempting to go over it. It’s a gorgeous shoegaze piece with all the qualities of the unexpected and evinces that wonderful creative flow that this sort of music evoked from its very beginings. “Dream Reverence” begins with a warm hum and then treats the listener to a trip-hop beat and ghostly guitars. The guitars weep and soar in this track all at the same time, giving off different emotive tones. As the title suggests, it is indeed dreamy and ethereal. “Dream Reverence” almost has a freeform jazz feel with variations swirling about on a melody and a beat.
“Pearlshell fairy” starts off with a beat pounded on the snare and then a dreamy, reverbed drenched bass line. This ventures into the more “loud” end of shoegaze with an amorphous wall of sound and male and female vocals drifting amid the sonic wave. At about 1:30, the band kicks it into high gear with tambourine, fast paced percussion, and thumping bass. The guitars swirl and dive, giving the feeling of being outside of the atmosphere. This, too, evokes that freeform jazz feel, with incredible drum work and just formless guitars that float about experimentally. “Pearlshell Fairy” is a glorious 6:54 minutes and never gets old.
“Broceliande” almost evokes a horror film at its beginning with warbling, off-key guitar and minor key elements. The guitars float from speaker to speaker as they pan back and forth, like ghostly forms attempting to escape the order dictated to them by the percussion. The vocals are swallowed by the floating mire. Eventually, the percussion gives into the unsettling atmosphere and also goes off kilter. It’s a beautiful demonstration of the band’s ability to create atmospheric music. “Painting the Silence” is the finale to this historic re-release and it begins with ethereal, fuzzy drones and a beautifully written bass-line. Here, the vocals soar and are dreamlike in their hypnotic mystical quality. Rather than fighting to get above the tumult, they complement the beautiful haze as they whip about the soundscape. The repetitive swirling of the guitars is gorgeous and envelops the listener like a warm bath. As the track winds down, it goes to silence and then only vocals appear, give the listener a glimpse into the harmonizing of both Jagomäe and Eller’s vocals sans walls of sound. It’s a beautiful end to a gorgeous album.
Seksound has done the world a wonderful service by reviving this long-lost treasure. Even though Beautica was released in 1994, the songs hold up and, quite frankly, could have been released as brand new songs this year. Bizarre craft ethereal tracks that evoke both deep emotions, transport you to other places, and conjure cinematic moments. This is shoegaze at its best.
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