Artist: Bethany Curve
Album: You Brought Us Here
Label: Unit Circle Rekkids
Release Date: September 4, 2001
Shoegaze and dream pop seem to have resurgences in ten year increments. We’re currently going through the third wave right about now, but that’s not what I wish to focus on today. The elusive second wave is today’s focal point.
The origins of these respective genres derived from Britain and somewhere along the line coalesced to form a perfect marriage. It seemed to have taken ten years before American bands started embracing it and tinkering with its template. Three bands spring to mind: Highspire, Experimental Aircraft and Bethany Curve. The latter’s album, You Brought Us Here, is arguably the best produced out of any of these bands (this week, anyway).
You can almost tell the story by the album’s titled. Perhaps a nod of the head in the direction of My Bloody Valentine et al. YBUS isn’t touted as Bethany Curve’s seminal album, however I feel it’s the best representation in what they wished to achieve. Hailing from Santa Cruz, California, Bethany Curve (whose line-up at the time of this album consisted of Richard Mailing – Vocals/Guitar, Nathan Guevara –Guitar, David Mac Wha – Drums, David Lockhart bass/cello) seemed to do away with the psychedelic influences that embellish this particular area of America to adopt more of a sound akin to its trans-Atlantic cousin.
Although a derivative band in many respects, they perform their craft with aplomb. Opener, ‘Long Beach’, is a nice dress rehearsal for what’s to come. The ten minute ‘Ann Illusion’ provides backbone to the album, presenting a post-punk influence under the deep layers of sound that sparsely floats throughout your listening space. ‘Silver’, my favourite on the album, holds a sturdy rhythm section with ear pricking bass lines that the drums struggle to keep pace with, while the melody is Bethany Curve at their height. If ‘Ann Illusion’ is the backbone, then ‘This Fire’ is its perfect foil, with tremolo gushing through more of Mailing’s early eighties influence of post-punk and murky rhythm section.
As the album strides on, the mix appears to get darker, with Bethany Curve leaning towards the sounds that dominated their earlier albums; Gold in particular. ‘Airplanes Down’ is about as brooding as the title suggests, while the ‘Lodge’ provides the perfect closure to the album, allowing the listener to reflect on what they’ve just had the pleasure of consuming.
The second wave of this genre appears to be the forgotten period. As mediocrity took to the main stream throughout the late ‘90s/early 00s, arguably, the only credible band who stood the test of time were Radiohead, who were at the height of their drastic sea change in Kid A. There was a simmering modest independent scene still ticking along - that to this day - still appears distant. Bethany Curve was a part of that and if many took the time to conduct some digging throughout this period, I’m sure they would be compelled with the results.
Bethany Curve Website: http://www.bethanycurve.com/
By Simon K.