Though they may not seem it initially, shoegaze and electronica are two of music’s closest cousins. The rich reverb of My Bloody Valentine contains the same sort of intrinsic trance found in the music of more digitally encompassing bands like Orbital. Call it the unwinding of pop to its rudiments, the unfurling of urgency into something more passive and organic but still undeniably melodic. Of course, with dubstep’s recent domination of the electronica world, the relatedness of jangle-pop and techno may be met with more than a few eyebrow raises. When earth-shattering bass does so much of the talking nowadays, is there even any room within the soundscape for guitar?
With Underrated Silence, a collaboration between two modern masters of the shoegaze scene, we have our answer: yes. Ulrich Schnauss and his Engineers bandmate Mark Peters have crafted a record that transports the listener to a place where wobbles become obsolete and where dreampop soundscapes morph into house and trance and back again. Schnauss is no stranger to reinterpretation: He’s made a name for himself in the past decade crafting remixes for artists ranging from Death Cab For Cutie to Depeche Mode, proving his talent for taking infectious pop melodies and refurbishing them with lovely touches of gauzy effects, echoes and woozy synths. Though Underrated Silence is still very much rooted in the dreaminess that won those remixes affection from the digital set, Peters’s guitar helps to ground the ambiance and propel things forward. On “The Child And The Pigeon,” for example, his transparent, folky chords are a perfect match for Schnauss’s shimmering synths; elsewhere, on “Gift Horse’s Mouth,” things take a more Middle Eastern turn, with splashes of Krautrock dotting the otherwise droning aural landscape.
Shoegaze’s critics often cite such spaciness as its biggest flaw: It’s, for lack of a better term, boring. But with the cloudy sugar-rush highs of “Yesterday Didn’t Exist” and “Forgotten,” fears of a snoozefest are thankfully abated. Above all else, this is a record that reminds us of one of music’s most overlooked, modest—but perhaps, most sensible—aesthetic couplings.