I love when you’re at a gig and a support band who you have never heard of before blows you away. Lunaire did that to me. Their ethereal shoegaze wall of fuzz and reverb with indiscernible and haunting vocals just grabbed me and set me up for a great night. They were giving away CDs with a few songs (a couple of demos and their half of a split EP) which turned out to capture the essence of their performance that night.
Three quarters of the Melbourne band hail from Warrnambool, a town on the South West coat of Victoria, and last month they released a four track EP, ‘With the Same Smile as Those Days’. The record had its origins in a song that kept growing and was then chopped into four parts. Perhaps that was through fear of putting out a 24 minute one-song record, after all some people start breaking into a cold sweat at the idea of a listening to a song over 3:30, or perhaps it was to give themselves some hope of getting airplay. It gives you more freedom with setlists too I suppose. Whatever the case, it works best as a whole when listening at home, although live it copes well with having just a slice served up. More on this later.
This is that wonderful, laid back pop that floats along with you as a passenger, hitting the occasional faster stretch of water but nothing you would call rapids. It’s about closing your eyes and leaving the world behind as the music swallows you up. It’s all sorts of beautiful.
It shops at the same grocery store as Slowdive, Alcest and My Bloody Valentine, and has many of the same ingredients. Perhaps a hint of Melbourne bands like Pray TV circa 1990 in the background as well. I rarely listen to music from last century any more, and despite their roots being in 90s shoegaze, Lunaire give me the same enjoyment I was finding 20 years ago from these kinds of indie sounds because they manage to make it fresh again.
The build-up of the layers over the course of each song is gradual and although it has a post-rock feel it’s not crescendocore or gentle ambient. The vocals are pulled so far back and it doesn’t matter that you can’t really make out the lyrics because its the tone and melody of Matt’s voice that’s important. There’s great pedal-driven wall of sound guitar that gives way in the final track to gentle classical-like arpeggios, while the bass and drums never really steal the show but support the sound well with their great variation and technique.
Another reason the EP works so well as a complete record is the same reason JS Bach knew how to knock out a good tune and that’s the maths. A great song works in part because of rhythm and melody but just as importantly because of its structure. Divide a great song into its parts and it sounds like a great collection of songs. It’s a bit like the rule of thirds in photography, a major chord, square corners in buildings, or the golden mean. Intentional or not things that add up just look and sound “right’ or complete. Too perfect though, and you have no tension, no individuality and nothing to keep drawing you back, and on that front Lunaire is like a magnet.
Lunaire reminds us in its own way that beautiful music doesn’t have to be shallow, repetitious and predictable. Sit back, close your eyes and enjoy the ride.
‘With the Same Smile as Those Days’ is available as a download – links are on their fb page.