Friday, April 26, 2019

Blue Glass' Pale Mirror

When I think about the techno-Goth-alternative bands in the '80s, I'm not really thinking about the obvious and flamboyant ones like the Cure and Depeche Mode. I'm very picky within these genres and there's a lot I don't like, but there are a few more low-key choices I still really dig such as the Psychedelic Furs or Sisters of Mercy or even, in small doses, Echo and the Bunnymen. Pale Mirror, the new album from Seattle-based Blue Glass, sounds like one of those albums that came out around 1982 or so and straddled that fence between the new techno trends and New Wave that was still driven by the sound of guitars. This was the world New Order navigated so well, but I think that's because they went to the sunny, danceable side without much resistance. Bands like Blue Glass, or at least bands that sounded like Blue Glass thirty years ago, stayed on the safe side, the one with the strings and the real drum kits and the gloom that stings your face.

Blue Glass is primarily one man named Michael Shunk, who also plays with a PNW band named Transient Songs. (I reviewed their last album here.) He envisioned this album, as well as the Blue Glass moniker, as a way to explore his own feelings about Seattle and how it changes during the winter. Shunk's songs focus on images of ice and cold and loneliness, and they also suggest the PNW habit of hibernation, of cutting yourself off from the world for weeks while you curl up with a good dozen books from Powell's. In many ways this is a modern-sounding release, with a nice groove and lots of detail, but Shunk's influences are strong. Months ago, when I first listened to the CD, I immediately thought of Psychedelic Furs. Now, after more time has passed, I hear The Cure more, but really early Cure. You know, the good stuff.

I was actually set to review the CD some time ago, but then the LP arrived and I thought well, I'll have to do a comparo. That'll take time, right? Actually, I no longer have much interest in comparing these two formats, but I will say that the vinyl is sweet, with very low surface noise and nice dynamics. I feel like we've been on a lucky streak with this indie vinyl lately--even the little guys can get quality pressings in this day and age.

That brings up one more little point. As you can see from the photo, this is the first album I've reviewed while using the Technics SL-1200G turntable. I've got the G hooked up to a quality chain of components: Miyajima Madake cartridge with Miyajima step-up transformer, Nasotec swing headshell, PureAudio Vinyl preamplifier. This analog rig is a ton o' fun because everything is so precise, and everything works so well. The ease-of-operation is fascinating to me, because I'm sometimes tempted to play the CD over the LP just to save time. (Or, more likely, I'm just being lazy.) The 1200G is such a machine, and now I'd rather throw on the vinyl when I can.

In that spirit, I need to break this beautiful beast in, and I have a lot of vinyl to review. The weekend looks like rain.

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