La Luz's 'Weirdo Shrine' Worships Upbeat Melodies
For better or worse, there are many bands at the moment that attempt to encapsulate the way their music sounds on record. Now without taking in to account the way a live setting can breed improvisation, and the way in which the occasional fuck-up can endear us to a band (after all, musicians are only human, despite the pedestals some are placed on), there's still a whole host of variables within a gig scenario that make mirroring recorded output all-but impossible. And this is where Seattle 'surf-noir' band La Luz and their second LP 'Weirdo Shrine' really turns things on their head.
With the goal being to encapsulate their unrelenting live energy in a studio environment, La Luz have freed themselves up to create a record that bristles with a DIY energy and flows seamlessly from track to track, occasionally meandering, but always intentionally.
For the most part however, it's carried forward with the unusual feeling of both freedom and purpose, something brought about in no uncertain terms by the frenetic percussion of Marian Li Pino, whose duel-like partnership with bassist Lena Simon provides the perfect sour bite to the sugar coating of the now-trademarked four-part harmonies that litter the record so liberally.
The juxtaposing of such harmonies against the crackle and fuzz of Weirdo Shrine's production is also something which gives the record a refreshing edge over its contemporaries, and with Ty Segall's name on the production credit, it's of little surprise that the silky vocals are provided with a well-received sand-blasting.
“He wanted to put fuzz in every song,” front woman Shana Cleveland said to Spin recently. “I’ve always used pretty minimal effects on the guitar, but he just kept going, "Yeah, that was great, but let’s try it with the fuzz pedal on."
In lesser hands that might have been detrimental to the finished product, but with such effects tailored to the individual tracks, as opposed to the album in its entirety, the only occurrences of things becoming really chaotic falls just after the halfway point. Both "I Wanna Be Alone (With You)" and "Hey Papi" cranking the fuzz factor up and embracing an unseen and lightly psychedelic side to the band.
Thematically the album is interested predominately in death, something the band are unfortunately not strangers to, given their near-fatal car accident back in 2013. That doesn't mean to say it's a dark record however, their brand of bubblegum surf-rock provides a more than ample fill of upbeat melodies, but isn't all peaches and cream either. The deft balance of the upbeat and the somewhat down-trodden making for a dichotomy of compositions that are as arresting as they are haunting.
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Words by Dave Beech