by / June 25th, 2010 /

Small Black – Small Black EP

 1/5 Rating


Long Island’s Small Black have frequently been associated with the chillwave/glo-fi scene, and it’s not hard to see why: Washed Out, arguably the archetypal artist of the genre, is currently touring with Small Black as support, and also released a glorious remix of their -Despicable Dogs’; while the duo’s music has the same hazy, out-of-focus quality and nostalgic tone that distinguishes most of the acts grouped under the chillwave banner.

However, whereas most of their supposed brethren (Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi, Memory Tapes etc.) deal in fuzzy electronica, Small Black owe more to guitar music, and in particular shoegaze. Submerged, wistful vocals interact with blurry guitar lines and drum-machine loops to create an atmospheric sound that’s alternately dreamy and jarring.

This re-issue of last year’s self-titled EP includes two new tracks, but the main attractions here remain the same. The original -Despicable Dogs’ is only slightly less sublime than its remixed version, a melancholic, bittersweet tune whose misty production only adds to its curious emotional power, while -Lady In The Wires’ and -Bad Lover’ soar understatedly.

In many ways this is the beauty of Small Black’s aesthetic: the anthemic qualities of their songs are downplayed in favour of a more impressionistic approach, and they sound all the better for it. The twilight wash of -Pleasant Experience’ is atmospheric and evocative even in this distinguished company, while new addition -Kings of Animals’ (originally included on the -Despicable Dogs’ 7’) interrupts the mood somewhat, being as it is the punkiest number in their repertoire.

Recent reports indicate that Small Black have been fleshing out their sound (and increasing their line-up) ahead of their first full-length, and you can’t blame them for wanting to avoid the inevitable chillwave backlash (what do you mean it’s already started?!). Still, they could do a whole lot worse than further exploring the beguiling sound they’ve created on this release – genre tags blur into irrelevance when it comes to music this good.

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