On Common Era, their second full-length album and first for the influential experimental label Kranky, Belong serve up heavy dollops of layered, atmospheric shoegaze and dark, psychedelic post-punk. A New Orleans duo formed in 2002, Belong produce hazy gray and pink clouds of ethereal noise and melody reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine, early Chapterhouse, Slowdive, and (in their lo-fi sensibility and forward thinking) Flying Saucer Attack. Scintillating swells of sound pulse and expand, ebb and flow over simple programmed drumbeats that could be found on a Jesus and Mary Chain or The Cure record. Lackadaisical, understated male vocals, sometimes cavernous with reverb, are blended in with the other ingredients of this oceanic blackberry swirl; lyrics are difficult to make out.
“Come See” kicks off the album with a roar, showcasing the duo’s aesthetic at its best. This heady music invoked out of the ether by Turk Deitrich and Mike Jones on Common Era, their first album since 2006’s October Language (Carpark), might be compared with other recent indie bands resurrecting the noisier, edgier side of shoegaze, such as Weekend (see their recent Sports album for Slumberland Records), Tamaryn, Film School, or a less rocked-up A Place to Bury Strangers, the latter two bands being fellow worshippers at the idol of Robert Smith. Belong’s sonic textures are shaped by guitars and keyboards, both processed through various effects. Their more avant-garde textures might be compared to the work of Fennesz. Further back in time, dark gothic post-punk music like The Cure (especially their Faith, Seventeen Seconds and Pornography albums) and Joy Division and ur-gazers My Bloody Valentine are likely signposts for this Southern duo. “Keep Still” creates a storm, a vortex of massive, reverberating sound. A soupcon of Krautrock can be discerned on a couple of tracks as well.
Although this album will appeal to fans of this range of musical styles, it doesn’t represent a huge advance sonically for Belong from their previous work. At times the record can seem a bit overly foggy or swampy (miasmic I mean—thank you, Simon Reynolds) in its relentless production of sonic haze, as though one were hearing them play at the other end of a vast cave. Also, although I understand that they are going for 1980s minimalism with their beats, a little more rhythmic variety might be a good thing. But in the right listening context, Common Era is a bewitching brew and boasts its own singular, swooning accessibility. For example, “Different Heart,” though shrouded in pink noise, is a winsome pop song.Visit: Belong | Kranky
Purchase: Insound | eMusic