Album Review: The Emerald Down – Scream The Sound

The Emerald Down, a band who Ian Watson (Rolling Stone/NME/BBC 6 Music) ranked among “the more innovative fringes of rock and electronica”, have re-released what has been deemed a lost classic on Saint Marie Records.

Its original release in 2001 (the height of shoegaze’s ‘uncool’ period) on a small label in America unfortunately saw the release sink into the ether. However, it never really disappeared, just lulled in the undergrowth – becoming the subject of blogs, illegal downloads and after-the-fact interviews. In essence, Scream the Sound became embedded in the shoegaze ethos and its mainstream re-emergence should therefore come as no surprise.

By way of introduction to those who The Emerald Down are a new entity; they began in 1995 in the indie hotbed of Washington. They shared the stage with the likes of Unwound, Karp, The Posies, and Heavenly in their earliest days before moving to Ohio and touring with fellow US bands Skywave, Highspire, Stellarscope, and Alcian Blue, putting out Scream The Sound (their only full length album) followed by Aquarium in 2002. A new band to some and legend to others, even the anti-shoegaze Pitchfork of 2002, despite its revisionist tendencies today, had to admit that The Emerald Down had adeptly mastered all the “shoegaze touchstones” to amazing effect.

The 11 track LP opens with ‘Caught a Wave’, a blissed out soundscape that marks the intent of this album from the offset. ‘Red Shift’ floats along melodically with dreamy vocals, fuzzy guitar and rhythmic drumming – all elements executed to perfection. The wonderfully named ‘Recondite Astral Traveler’ offers something a little different, with dual vocals taking to the front and competing harmonically for aural attention and a heavier rhythmic guitar rises and falls evocatively.

‘7am’ purrs, whilst ‘Another Day’ offers pleasing contradictions which tease playfully in a way that only true shoegaze could get away with. ‘Heavier than Ether, Lighter than Air’ is the shortest track on the album and serves up a noise fuzz and bass opening before ethereal vocals ensue. ‘Perilized’, in complete contrast, starts pacey and continues that way; if the album was seen to have an anthem in it – this would be it.

‘Choffi’ croons with the duality in vocals once more and is accompanied by the finest fuzz guitars. The lengthier track is a showcase of talent, with all the things you expect exactly where you expect them to be (including a fade exit). ‘His Sight Shiny Like Chrome’ is more of what we know and love, whilst ‘A Minor Crush’ has a moodier edge with its title nodding to its tonal choice. Title track ‘Scream The Sound’ is chosen to close, with its spoken French word opening, distorted guitar and probing bass line before vocal harmonies drive the track to conclusion.

This album encapsulates everything that defines the shoegaze genre and magnifies it, honing in beautifully and sculpting The Emerald Down their own path. Saint Marie Records have brought a masterpiece back to the fore and with the news that the band are set to release a new album on Wrong Way Records in 2017, things are looking rather rosy for those with a shoegaze inclination.


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