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Big Hush - "Spirit / Wholes" | Album Review

by Julie Smitka (@julieksmitka)

In an interview with Pitchfork on Slowdive’s reunion earlier this year, member Neil Halstead discussed his surprise at learning the band’s audience was a younger generation. When asked why shoegaze has persevered, Halstead suggested its survival is linked to its initial obscurity and recent introduction; “maybe it was ripe for rediscovery…. maybe the internet had a real good impact on shoegaze because it’s given kids now a chance to check it out.” 

Whether the presence of shoegaze in 2017 is owing to improved digital accessibility in the last ten years, or to the reunions of The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, Slowdive, and Ride—and Lush, although brief—within that same decade, it’s an exhausted causal dilemma. Shoegaze was mocked during the 90s in Melody Maker as the dying “scene that celebrates itself,” but is now regarded as having undergone a resurrection, giving rise to bands who embrace what Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus called “the ugly cousin of dream pop” along with its history. D.C.’s Big Hush do this with exceptional diligence. Their name could easily be an adroit response to criticisms of the genre itself, but it’s more than apt solely as an illustration of their own sound.

Big Hush’s Spirit / Wholes tracklist reads like a concept album but opens as a time capsule, starting with this summer’s “Soft Eyes,” their most textured track, before shifting back to EPs Who’s Smoking Your Spirit? (2015) and Wholes (2014). “Soft Eyes” reintroduces Genevieve Ludwig, Owen Wuerker, Chris Taylor, and Emma Baker’s stunning collaboration in its balance amid fittingly hushed vocals over jarring strings and drums. It reflects a blend of Spirit’s anxious-punk energy and Wholes’ shimmering vulnerability. “Soft Eyes” establishes a unity of both EPs on the same record while Big Hush explores their loudest quiet yet, and Spirit / Wholes proves they aren’t so easily shoehorned into shoegaze.