You’ve got to admire the durability of any band that sticks to its business through nearly two decades, numerous lineup changes, and a big move from San Francisco to Los Angeles. That said, Fission, the latest incarnation of Film School with Lorelei Plotczyk on bass trading vocal duties with longtime frontman Greg Bertens, gives me reason to think this early purveyor of shoegaze may be around a while longer yet.
They’re big on the “la las” and “ooh ooh” backing vocals serving as a backdrop to shimmering guitars, reverb-drenched synths, and pounding drum beats. Musically, it’s like staring at the ocean in the summer — glimmering surfaces covering the cool dark underneath.
Plotczyk at times sounds vaguely like Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo, and even some of the song arrangements veer into that venerated Hoboken band’s turf. But the polished production values keep Fission on a different level, as if they mashed the ’60s pop flavorings of YLT with the moodiness of My Bloody Valentine and the crunchy guitars of Big Country and the whooshing synths of Cocteau Twins.
The album starts off briskly enough with “Heartful of Pentagons” but holds a moody tone throughout, except when they rip into “When I’m Yours” and “Distant Life,” the most upbeat songs on this atmospheric album. Other standouts are “Still Might” and the irresistible “Sunny Day.” The song “Waited” has a distinctly YLT bass riff, and “Bones” seems like the most straight up indie-alt song, with Bertens’ voice sliding into the lower registers of his honeyed baritone as he sings about “broken bones.”
The most successful numbers on this consistently and meticulously produced album have hints of rawness and edge, but the real standouts are when Plotzyk brings her husky tenor front and center, as in the closing track, “Find You Out.”
This album is a late summer day at the beach reverie.
Hi-Speed Soul: www.hispeedsoul.com