Single Review: Sleepwalk - "Shine // Vertigo Zoom"

Sleepwalk - Shine // Vertigo Zoom
(2017 Emma's House)

Sleepwalk's label may be named after a particularly influential single by The Field Mice, but their new virtual 7" single released by Mexico-based Emma's House Records bears only a slight resemblance to their rodent forebears. Listening to the Chicagoan quartet's latest work is like experiencing "Emma's House" on an IMAX screen, headrest titled back with a greasy bag of popcorn at the ready.

A-side "Shine" opens humbly, pitting a filtered rhythm guitar against a needle-sharp thread of feedback that primes the listener for the amplification to come. The stray screech of fuzz becomes more unstable as it travels, tumbling and vibrating like a firework set to burst before ushering in a fat bassline, stadium-rock percussion, and proto-grunge riffage bendy enough to have been used on Yuck's debut record.

"Shine" is the sort of track -- like Swervedriver's "Duel" or Ride's "Vapor Trail" -- that shares shoegaze's love for spacious, dreamy chord progressions and driving rhythms, but sheds some of its distortion to hatch into a punchier, more hummable sound. Sleepwalk's towering melodies can stand on their own without copious amounts of reverb to prop them up. It isn't until a flange effect throttles the band's guitars two-thirds of the way into "Shine" that the pedalboard's role becomes noticeable, but the textural transition still melts seamlessly into Ryan Davis' repeated plea to "say no" to dwelling on the past. Sleepwalk borrows sonic cues from the nineties, but they return them in better condition than they were left: well-mastered and streamlined to pop structure.

B-side "Vertigo Zoom" is more of a slow climb than its predecessor. An infectious lead riff hopscotches across tom drums and kicks, leaving room for Davis to whisper atop gurgles of bass. It's like a juiced-up version of DIIV's "Oshin": here, Sleepwalk builds up confectionery harmonies, and melts them down around the meat of a whirling chorus. While "Shine" is powered by twinkly aggression, "Vertigo Zoom" runs on psychedelic energy. Together, the two sides nearly span shoegaze's boundaries and then some. Shine // Vertigo Zoom is a record that explores its full potential while still staying tethered to its roots.