Whirr Takes the Barbary By Storm
On Monday September 15th, San Francisco natives Whirr brought their heavier take on shoegaze to the relatively tiny Barbary, and the results were sonically massive. Simple, but evocative. Mechanical, but lively. Loud, but subtle. Whirr’s music is a reconfiguration of a post-My-Bloody-Valentine sublimity.
This sublimity was achieved through an interesting duality between Nick Bassett (the lead guitarist who also played on Deafheaven’s underrated Roads to Judah) and the rest of the band. The two rhythm guitarists, bassists, and drummer seemed to move as one through each song, working classic popular harmonic progressions (with subtle voicing) against strong rudimentary rhythms. This led to some of the strongest grooves I’ve ever heard from a shoegaze outfit. Shoegaze artists tend to focus so much on crafting perfect guitar effects and soundscapes that the core element of groove is lost, but not with Whirr. Combined with Bassett’s ethereal guitar leads, this band finally finds a way to step out.
But not all was right with the show. Whether by stylistic choice or poor mixing, the vocals were near inaudible. In shoegaze, lyrics are usually secondary to the melody itself, so it’s understandable why the vocals would be buried with the other instruments, but these vocals were buried six feet under the stage. I struggled to even make out the melodic figures, and soon gave up and focused on Bassett’s guitar work to satisfy my melodic desires.
Whirr is still clearly emerging and maturing both as a live act and as songwriters. Distressor (my personal favorite release) had that rawness and heart that seemed, at least to me, absent on their follow-up. This show, however, rekindled my faith and raised my expectations for the upcoming album, Sway, on September 23rd. If the intensity, tightness, and guitar timbres are close to what I saw on Monday, it could make their careers.