This debut EP by Australian-based duo FOREVR is one of those discs you’ll either love or hate within seconds of hitting the play button. With no time to warm up, the band have already shifted from silence to a complete wall of sound in a split second, as the intro ‘Yucatan’ crushes with a huge droning noise. Overdriven guitars with amplifiers turned up to twelve (one even louder) gleefully throw out distorted shapes as chief musician Donovan Miller hammers at an array of effects pedals. From somewhere within, vocalist Sam George-Allen melds her voice accordingly, a filtered sound rising and falling throughout, wisp-like and ghostly as if she’s channelling Elizabeth Fraser on a collaboration with the equally uncompromising A Place To Bury Strangers.
…And in that three minutes, FOREVR have secured their place as one of the cult greats within the shoegaze pantheon, but they’ve so much more to give. While ‘Heart of Ice’ seems just as intense at the outset, there are fleeting moments of more accessible sounds, with the rhythmic approach in places bringing influence from The Cure’s stark and affronting ‘Pornography’ album. The drum machines clatter with a Krautrock coldness, shifting between deep beats and the rattling of things stuck in bicycle spokes; the guitars are obtusely confrontational, droning and even gleefully ugly, as they waver in an out like sounds on a stretched cassette, but once your ears tune in, there’s a crisp and dreamy melody wavering beneath the noise. Sam’s voice is mixed even lower than before to the point where it’s practically impossible to ascertain any actual lyrics, as if she’s just using her voice for extra instrumentation. If this sounds horrible, then don’t be fooled; for all of its harshness, it comes with a cold and shoegazy beauty that’s tough to beat.
Opening with a heavy thumping beat and clanging guitars, ‘Midas At Night’ pounds slowly and oppressively like ‘Be My Baby’ slowed down by a third then cranked up incessantly, with Sam’s vocal changing pitch as it moves along – again, with their beloved warped effect in full evidence. Branching out into the main body of the piece, Dan’s guitar lines show occasional lighter touches, closer to dream pop at its darkest ebb, but it never loses that heavy shoegaze core. The pulling back of distortion allows the vocal to cut through a little more and Sam’s breathy and wistful approach is great; always at odds with the crushing and heavy sounds – but never ever out of place. Moving into the last bars, heavy keys add extra drones – in this setting, the wall of sound can never be overdone, and the wordless vocal sounds add the feeling of being trapped within a dream world with the walls edging ever closer… The intro to ‘Forgive’ shows FOREVR at their strongest: shredding guitar rhythms lay the foundations of a strong noise-rock base, but pretty much everything lurking beneath is far more interesting. The slow drum lines are hugely reminiscent of the darkest 80s goth, the warm bass hinting at Fields of the Nephilim, the voice Cocteau-tastic. Overall, it’s an absolutely enthralling combination. The main body of the number, although becoming a little louder – as is FOREVR’s usual fashion – never loses sight of this great force; the few melodies there are occasionally get drowned a little, but it’s solid and unrelenting and perhaps the best example of the duo’s talents when at full throttle.
This EP is fantastic. The live in the studio recording style minimises any unnecessarily fussy bits and as such leaves behind shoegaze gold on each of these four numbers. For fans of the style, ‘Demonstration’ is a dark audio dream – in terms of belligerent, hardnosed drones colliding with ethereal vocal noises, this is about as good as it gets.