Published Apr 01, 2020Shoegaze is good music to lose yourself in; it's simultaneously soothing and obliterating, music to make yourself feel both small and significant. It's good music for the times we're in, and Peel Dream Magazine have provided an excellent escape route with their fuzzed-out sophomore record, Agitprop Alterna.
The sugar-coated swirl of opener "Pill" is a sonic wormhole to the golden age of shoegaze, the most pitch-perfect recapturing of the sound — and distinctly melancholic delirium — of the genre's heyday in recent memory. It's the tiniest bit of a red herring – though the fuzz, gliding guitars and androgynous, cooing vocals remain constants across the record, Peel Dream Magazine are interested in more than just a pastiche of late '80s and early '90s shoegaze. Rather than adopting only the volume and layers, as so many young shoegaze bands do, Peel Dream Magazine are also, crucially, committed to mood and atmosphere.
Palette cleansing tracks like "Brief Inner Mission" and the radio dispatch "Wood Paneling Pt. 2" function much like My Bloody Valentine's "Touched" or "Is This and Yes" — breaks from the noise that provide calm and necessary dimension. Those classic shoegaze records weren't boundary-pushing simply because they sounded new — they crafted entire worlds, somehow both impenetrable and spacious.
Still, this isn't a Loveless rehash – it's a more shambolic record, less foreign in its textures and smaller in sonic scope. Agitprop Alterna feels made by human beings, its songs less dense than they might appear on first blush. The meditative calm of "The Bertolt Brecht Society," the forward momentum of "Escalator Ism," the jangling shimmer of closer "Up and Up" — it's an album of many shades, its peculiar insularities the mark of a band counting time by their own off-kilter clock.
It's a tighter and more motorik album than 2018's Modern Meta Physic, and the band sound as though they've locked more fully into the shape they're meant to take — hooky, harmonic rock that seems to glow softly from within all the noise. It's an enveloping, oddly comforting soundtrack to troubled times. (Slumberland)