Shoegaze’s loveliest quality can often be its most frustrating: monotony. There’s almost always the hushed vocals, the wall of distorted guitar, the reverb-tinged snare drum pops, and that hazy, overall swirl. Not every song employs this formula, yet it’s prevalent if you listen closely. Whirr’s sophomore LP doesn’t try at all to reinvent shoegaze, and this turns out to be a wise, welcoming decision.
As expected, Sway is centered around that particular brand of monotony. It feels less like an album of eight songs and more like a 36-minute piece with various movements that feature small tweaks to the formula. But it’s also pummeling and even epic in places, a Sunbather for people who dig Deafheaven’s muscle and cathartic noise but not the harsh black metal vocals.
Though nearly all of its tracks blur together, special moments sprinkle in here and there throughout the album. There’s the beautiful outro on “Dry”, which builds upon the song’s central melody and turns it into a pounding breakdown of fuzz-box guitars and arena rock drums. There’s also the dreamy blast of white noise that begins and ends “Clear”, and the buzzy drone that never subsides on the aptly titled “Heavy”.
If there’s one song that rises above the sameness, it’s the gorgeous “Lines”, which rides a Neil Halstead-esque guitar riff through heavy feedback and sludge. It possesses momentum, a pop-like pattern. There’s an obvious beginning, middle, and end, as well as a more varied range of feeling than the rest of the record, which stays sentimentally monochromatic throughout. Nonetheless, Sway’s one, fundamental emotion — that vague sense of longing you can’t articulate despite its near omnipresence — is a powerful one. Monotony in music can be boring, but it can also be comforting. That’s why Whirr works. Those warm swirls are medicinal.
Essential Tracks: “Lines”, “Heavy”