Once upon a time, "shoegaze" was a dirty word; a derogatory term invented by journos of the day to describe a cluster of bands with one common aim that transcended the normal verse-chorus-verse ethic courtesy of vocals so low in the mix they were barely audible while buried amidst a crescendo of feedback, distortion and tremelo.
It is quite ironic then that almost two decades later, some of those objects of derision - My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride to name but three - now find themselves accrued with legendary status.
Fast forward to 2008 and the genre seems to have found a whole new lease of life far beyond its Middle England Home Counties origin. While the My Bloody Valentine reunion shows obviously re-iterated their iconic demeanour, New York seems to be the place that really took the shoegaze rulebook, ripped the pages out and started again from scratch. Led by the inimitable A Place To Bury Strangers , NYC's noise scene is making waves not only in the underground but in the corporate offices of major label A&R too, while even the likes of Glasvegas have undoubtedly taken their own variation of the genre onto daytime radio playlists and beyond.
A few weeks ago on 22nd November shoegaze even took over the capital, as the excellent Northern Star Records showcased its cosmopolitan roster at RoTA featuring the likes of Sweden's delectable Youngteam alongside Bristolian Ride enthusiasts Aspen Woods and the more widescreen sounds of Nick McCabe's favourite band Nova Saints. Heading across London straight after to the less salubrious confines of Kilburn we find ourselves submerged in the mellower elements of the genre courtesy of the excellent Club AC30 event featuring July Skies and Piano Magic. These two, along with fellow capital based indie Sonic Cathedral are undisputedly at the forefront of the shoegaze revolution.
I could go on and list the bands, labels and regional scenes playing their part in the shoegaze resurgence until the keys jam up and curl over in exhaustion, but instead here's a selection of artists we think will elevate the genre to even greater heights in 2009...
Darker My Love (main picture)
This Californian quintet first came to our attention at the back end of last year thanks to a couple of their band members moonlighting in the latest (at the time) incarnation of The Fall. One trawl through their back catalogue suggests they may have been better staying put, and this year's '2' record is a gem any lover of deep fried, psychedelic space rock should own.
Chicago four-piece Apteka still remarkably remain unsigned on both sides of the Atlantic, despite a storming performance at last year's South By Southwest and several shows with kindred spirits Asobi Seksu and APTBS. Expect all this to change though in the coming months as their sound and songwriting prowess grows with every new composition.
My Broken 101
Hailing from Dorset and already spawning three other side projects of varying sonic experimentation, this four piece make psychedelic drones like a latter day Spacemen 3 in bed with Peter Green and a bucketload of hallucinogenics that marry the the western coasts on both sides of the Atlantic with consummate ease.
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
OK, so not strictly shoegaze in the most pedantic sense of the term but undeniably influenced by the earliest My Bloody Valentine recordings combined with a C86-infused innocence that makes it impossible for anyone from anorak wearing bowlies to black clad gloom rockers everywhere not to fall in love with this NYC (yes, again) foursome.
Dark ambient electronica may have brushed the mainstream thanks to the likes of Maps but this mysterious London-via-North Wales based three piece take it to another dimension. Think Warp era Seefeel and an obvious love of 'Loveless' and you're halfway towards Perfect Blue's alter state realisation. Recent album 'On A Higher Plane' was one of this year's hidden gems, once again by way of the near faultless Northern Star imprint.
When Skywave broke up in the early part of the decade, frontman Oliver Ackermann formed A Place To Bury Strangers. The other two thirds of Skywave haven't disappeared either, having honed their own Ceremony project into an industrial beat-charged sonic machine of its own that once again proves New York has the loudest fx pedals.
Aside from those six, we're also looking forward to Gregor Samsa's first excursion on British soil in January, the long awaited debut album by exquisite South Yorkshire types Exit Calm not to mention brand new releases from the likes of Daniel Land & The Modern Painters, Model Morning, and Mint Ive, who are currently in the studio recording their next EP with highly feted producer Ric Peet.
So, while some of you are waving those glo-sticks around with gleeful abandon, I'll be the one stood at the back, nodding profusely to another sonic annihilation of the ethereal kind if y'don't mind...