Nathaniel Cramp has been running the increasingly successful Sonic Cathedral club night since 2004, before launching the record label two years later.
Here, he discusses the merits of so-called "nu-gaze", and what the whole shoegaze revival means to him. And if you click here you'll find a profile on said label.
Let’s get this straight from the start: there’s no such thing as nu-gaze, it’s just a bad pun, and there’s not even really a scene celebrating itself or anyone else. What there is, however, is a renewed interest in all things shoegaze and that can only be a good thing.
When I started Sonic Cathedral it was supposed to be a one-off clubnight, a chance to play lots of amazing records that hadn’t been aired in public for a long time. As well as looking back, however, it was also inspired by the newer sounds I had been hearing from the likes of M83, Ulrich Schnauss, Engineers, Amusement Parks On Fire and The Radio Dept. Remember, this was a time when the future of music was seen as scratchy rubbish from anyone who shared a crack pipe with Pete Doherty and musical development – certainly in indie circles – seemed to have ended at Gang Of Four’s first album. Everywhere you listened music had angles, yet here were some bands and artists that made music with curves (and who probably listened to Curve) and that seemed reason enough for a celebration.
Video:The Radio Dept. 'Keen On Boys'
When the doors opened at that first Sonic Cathedral night on October 23rd 2004, for everyone who came in wearing a Slowdive T-shirt, looking like they hadn’t ventured outside since the Slough Festival of 1991, there were as many kids who had probably never even heard of Slowdive. (The new and old theme was reflected with the bill, which saw The Radio Dept playing live and The Telescopes DJing.) Clearly the demand was there and it would’ve been doing these people a disservice to have stopped after just one night. So here we are, nearly five years later, with hazy memories of many great nights, a record label and the latest incarnation of the shoegaze revival in full swing.
In those five years the numerous strands of shoegaze-inspired sounds have become increasingly apparent. There are the post-Brian Jonestown Massacre bands – The Black Angels, Darker My Love – who are as much in thrall to psychedelia and classic rock influences as they are to the likes of Ride. There are the more post-rock influenced bands such as Jeniferever and Kyte. There are the dance and electronica artists such as Ulrich Schnauss, M83 and Maps. Then there’s the disparate likes of School Of Seven Bells, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Crystal Stilts, Sad Day For Puppets, Asobi Seksu, Deerhunter, A Place To Bury Strangers… see what I mean about there not being a scene? In fact, sometimes it’s difficult to work out what it is that links these bands together at all. But there is definitely something: an emotional purity, an underlying melancholy, providing a means of escapism through noise, through reverb, through repetition, through beauty. And not an angle to be seen.
Video: Jeniferever 'From Across The Sea' (released via DrownedinSound Recordings)
The one influence that everyone would agree on would be My Bloody Valentine. Their reunion last year has not only legitimised the current shoegaze revival, but it afforded bands such as Slowdive a long overdue critical reappraisal. It has also provided a whole new wave of inspiration, the most high profile of which is the new Horrors album, Primary Colours, which, for all its Neu!-inspired motorik rhythms, is made all the better by being smothered with Shields-style guitars.
So what does the future hold? Now that The Sunday Times et al are cottoning on to the shoegaze revival thanks to its increasing infiltration of the mainstream and some timely compilation albums from Rob Da Bank and yours truly, it could put a sell by date on things. However, I think that the lack of a single scene or sound will be shoegaze’s saving grace. So while Lily Allen’s ‘The Fear’ had some epic sounds on it that wouldn’t have been out of place on Maps’ ‘We Can Create’, she’ll soon move on and leave the rest of us to contemplate our footwear in peace.
Video:Maps 'Don't Fear'