WHY SUN – Frugte EP

Copenhagen’s Why Sun bill themselves as a “sleepy noise trio”. To most people, especially those old enough to be absorbed in alternative sounds circa 1986, this translates as “heavy gothic shoegaze with dream pop guitar”. There isn’t anything new in the noises Why Sun create – most of their influences come over like the proverbial sledgehammer – but what they lack in originality, they make up for with absolute conviction.

‘Traffic’ is easily the EP’s most straight number shoegaze terms as slow, mechanized drums lay down a steady beat, over which at least two layers of guitars add shimmering sounds. In the left speaker channel, a barely audible layer of distortion starts up and then stays for the duration. The melodic hook – if it could be called such – comes from the second guitar in the right channel, as various dreamy, clean notes evoke the most immersive parts of The Cure’s ‘Disintegration’ album. Over this layer of repetitious misery, an insanely deep vocal sounds like the ghost of Ian Curtis channelling a classic Stuart A. Staples performance, putting in the most dour slant on things as possible. As you’d expect, such a dense sound takes a while to adjust to, but once you’re in that zone, it’ll also come as no surprise that the results are…great. However, despite ‘Traffic’ resembling the most direct sounds within the genre constraints, it isn’t ‘Frugte’s best track. That honour would almost certainly go to ‘Blind’, where the band opts for something far more spacious. The approach to rhythm remains constant, but the decision to strip things down in order for two cleaner guitar parts to carry a melody shows how great the band can be. The vocals aren’t any chirpier – again, the approach falls somewhere near Tindersticks at their most naval-gazing – but set against music that’s closer to the other-worldly moods of Kendra Smith, Hope Sandoval and Mazzy Star, there’s so much to enjoy. If you’re into any of those artists or anything similar, you won’t find anything new, but you’ll discover four minutes of a band attempting to bring you down, yet simultaneously unleashing something surprisingly uplifting in the process.

Also released as a digital single, ‘Eastern Love’ finds Sun Why trading in just enough of their extreme darkness to arrive at something that sounds like a deep cut from Jesus & Mary Chain with an accessible jangle throughout. Much like ‘Blind’, it’s as much about what the music doesn’t say, since the heavily reverbed sound still carries a downbeat vibe, but it’s the use of space that gives it the most natural feel. Since it doesn’t have to fight a wall of sound to make an impression, the vocal is also the EP’s best – sedate and mournful, as if William Reed tapped into a Nick Cave ballad. Even though this track is the closest the band will ever come to a singalong chorus, it’s the lead guitar that leaves the most indelible impression. Instead of a traditional solo, a choice has been made to use shapes and distorted guitar to howl out a solo that almost sounds like an amped up version of someone bowing a saw. It’s unexpected…and it is lovely; those noises that eventually lift the track to the next level, making it a definite stand-out. Keeping with a dream pop guitar sound, ‘Heart of the Moon’ shows off Why Sun’s minimalist approach almost as brilliantly, with a shimmering guitar joining a low-key vocal throughout. With an increase in volume, there might’ve been a closer kinship with ‘Traffic’ here, but it’s just a sidestep enough from that and ‘Blind’ to feel like the band are at least trying to branch out, even if their minimalist mopiness initially gives the impression of the song just being much more of the same. If you love goth or shoegaze, this – along with the rest of the EP – is recommended listening. Finally, ‘Singapore (Night)’ pulls no punches. Taking the band’s favoured gothy sounds and distorting them in the extreme, the result almost sounds like a sludgy take on an 80s sound. Of all the material here, it takes far longer to appreciate…if, indeed, you ever can. At first, it’s so completely arduous, you might be tempted to reach for the skip button, but after a few plays, the Jesus & Mary Chain-ish edges start to cut through the insanely slow beats and drones. In keeping with the intensive and repetitive music, the vocal reaches further inward and returns with a Pete Steele-esque boom. As the track progresses, very little else happens. It’s one of those tracks that actually sounds better if you resequence the EP so you’re not taking this in at the end of an already intense listen and terms of creating a wall of sound that takes the mood of ‘Traffic’ and then pushes for extremes, it’s sort of a success. That said, measured against everything else, it’s never going to be Why Sun’s best track.

There isn’t always a lot of variety across these five tracks, but then Why Sun are far more about dense atmospheres than anything else. There isn’t much joy, either; it’s often like spending twenty minutes with Tindersticks remixed and then subjected to extreme distortion by Kevin Shields (at any point during one of his twenty year hiatuses) or Jesus & Mary Chain slowed to a crawl. Even by the limited terms of very dark, gothic shoegazing noises, that means ‘Frugte’ can seem far too hard going at first, but perseverance is a must – once you’ve settled in, this EP is absolutely captivating in its gloom. It’s fair to say it’s for genre fans only, but if that applies to you, this might be the best thing you’ve (n)ever heard since Chileans MAFF appeared on the scene in 2015.

July 2019