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Whitelands bring shoegaze's legacy to the future on Night-bound Eyes Are Blind To The Day

"Night-bound Eyes Are Blind To The Day"

Release date: 23 February 2024
Whitelands Night bound Eyes Are Blind To The Day cover
21 February 2024, 08:30 Written by Chris Todd

The reputation of the shoegaze genre, treated as a dirty word as soon as Britpop hit in the mid-nineties, has never been higher.

Beach House continue to be one of the best acts of our times, Miki Birenyi’s book, Fingers Crossed, was a captivating and at times toe toe-curling reflection on her time in Lush and the indie scene in the nineties in general, and recent Ride and Swervedriver reissues have resulted in deserved positive reappraisals, Slowdive released a career-high album in 23 in everything is alive bringing with it a swathe of younger fans and millions of TikTok hits, while a Cocteau Twins revival seems to be an ever-looming prospect.

Whitelands, a young four-piece from London and signed to the official gatekeepers of the legacy of shoegaze, the Sonic Cathedral label, are clearly keen students of the class of 88-92. Though they’ve been together several years and have released collections of tracks prior to a series of EP's on Sonic, it was only when coming across Slowdive live sessions on YouTube that the sound they were searching for made itself known, resulting in this collection being recognised as their debut.

Night-Bound Eyes Are Blind To The Day, the most shoegaze album title of all time, makes their advocacy clear, over its eight tracks clocking in at a brief and concise 33 minutes we have a love letter to the sounds that make them tick. Heavily reverbed guitars, barely there male/female vocals intertwine and the elastic basslines adding groove to the shuffling percussion are all instantly recognizable and loved to shoegaze fans of a certain age, Slowdive are a clear reference point (particularly their '93 album, Souvlaki), so it’s of no surprise they’re supporting the band on their current tour, and the album itself is mastered by their powerhouse drummer, Simon Scott.

The melodic melancholy of "Tell Me About It" and the sad jangle of "The Prophet and I" (the best tracks here) are deceptively poppy and reminiscent of perennially underrated Leeds shoegaze quartet The Pale Saints, while harder-edged sounds displayed on "How It Feels" show off a knack for urgency when required, though the stock tempo of the album is firmly set to ‘chill’.

The hazy dreampop DIIV vibes of "Setting Sun" mask the biting lyrics of experiencing racism & tokenism, a telling soundbite on the press release complains of the narrative that only white artists can be sensitive and emotionally aware, whereas black acts should be angry. Whitelands, a fully POC band, are immediately important in a genre where colour is such a rarity, the same way A.R Kane (who gifted the band a stunning remix of "Setting Sun" last year), Swervedriver’s Adam Franklin, Curve’s Debbie Smith, The Veldt and Dr Phibes & The House of Wax Equations were essential for shoegaze fans of colour back in the 80s and 90s, on this showing, they prove they’re totally capable, and up for the challenge.

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