I particularly wanted to post this video, not because it’s all that good in quality, but because of what it signified when I saw it first: the arrival of a new Envy album. Insomniac Doze, as indeed this song shows, proved to be quite a different beast from A Dead Sinking Story. Which album, in turn, was significantly different from the preceding one – a fact that allows some people to portray Envy as a ‘maturing’ screamo band, abandoning the chaos and brutality of their earlier work for a calmer, more reflective post-rock sound. They’ve quietened down, into the epic, cinematic musicians they always wanted to be, into the next stage of artistic achievement. While, equally, for some people the idea of a ‘maturing’ screamo band is by definition a sad decline – a crying shame, one might say, rather than a screaming pride…
What I’ve just sketched is I think a pretty straightforward account of Envy’s current musical evolution; however, it’s too pat, too mean and too dull. Because, above all, it makes it too easy to write off Insomniac Doze as Envy’s boring, late album.
And that’s a shame, because Insomniac Doze could quite possibly be Envy’s most beautiful, authentic record yet.
What I want to talk about today is shoegaze. Why? Because in the overwhelming beauty of, say, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless (one of the best albums ever made) is the key to understanding Insomniac Doze. Or at least, since ‘key’ sounds a bit too dogmatic, another approach to the appreciation of Envy’s music.
Genres are always ambiguous, and I don’t wish to confuse post-rock with shoegaze. If you’ve watched the video above, no, ‘Scene’ isn’t a shoegaze song. (But the following song on the album, ‘Crystallize’, takes the same melody, adds in a few dance-y steps, drapes itself in shimmering guitar distortion… and you’re halfway to MBV’s ‘Soon’. In my opinion). A liking for shoegaze is not a direct correlation with enjoying Insomniac Doze, but it helps to get the feel of the album - its slowness of sound and its sheer density.
Further on this point, there is already a band which has been combining the elements of post-rock and shoegaze – Justin Broadrick’s Jesu. I was very interested in hearing Conqueror or Sun Down/Sun Rise, just on the basis of their apparent synthesis of styles. And don't get me wrong - they are all pretty good records. However, in my opinion they don’t quite live up to their potential – or rather, I should say I find them frankly a little bit dull. Which is why, by contrast, Insomniac Doze proves to be such an enjoyable album. Envy are still, when it comes down to it, a great screamo band.
Insomniac Doze takes the poise of post-rock, the tenderness of shoegaze, and combines it all with the power and dynamics of screamo. Japanese screamo, nonetheless, which might also be considered innately epic.
Insomniac Doze is a great album – beautiful, deep, moving and viscerally dynamic. So sit back and enjoy the blue clouds, rain and post-industrial trucks. Not quite Envy at their best, perhaps, but close enough.
- A bunch of lesser-known, but rather good, shoegaze albums posted on someone's livejournal. I recommend Bleach - s/t and Air Formation - Feel Everything.
- A bunch of Jesu on ROAWR!. It may be everything, actually. ROAWR! tends to be that way...
...which, incidentally, is a year old this month (October). Happy birthday, blend!