During the morning hours of 9 January 1965, the largest landslide in Canadian history occured – and though there is a level of hopelessness if caught in a landslide of this magnitude, it ironically occurs right in the Nicolum Valley, close by the municipality of Hope. And that is where The Hope Slide (the duo of Michaela Galloway and John Lucas) took inspiration for their name. Such a big event, the first question that pops to mind is if this independent band could live up to the name? One word: Yes! Their eponymous debut album (28 September 2010 in digital format) is a journey through grandiose soundscapes, overwhelming undertows, and brilliant craftsmanship.
Before going any further, let me make a few important distinctions. What passes, quite often, as dream pop or shoegaze these days is not dreampop or shoegaze. In brief, dream pop has to have a level of etherealness (usually in the vocals, sometimes in the keys or mood of the song) and shoegaze (which is the “child” of dream pop) always consists of some sort of sonic distortion but yet consistently focused on melody. Check … Check … The Hope Slide checks as the real McCoy on both accounts – these are not ironic hipsters trying to capitalize on the past; Galloway and Lucas are carefully crafting music in a duo tradition, expanding the genres and adding in their own special twist to the music. Secondly, they are a band that happens to be electronic, not an electronic band. Perhaps it was circumstances that spearheaded the direction to make music electronically (especially in terms of the beat), but they do not make music to be “electropop,” “electronica,” “synthrock,” or any other catchy label. But, hey, they use a Moog Little Phatty – definitely a reason to give them two thumbs up!
Let’s start with the end, “Parish.” The longest track on the album (almost six-and-a-quarter) and the cathartic epic of the album, The Hope Slide is able to combine ebullience with visceral power. Funky intro and beats, the vocal arrangements another level of “sound,” with a wide range of guitar textures (from ethereal to hauntingly distorted), the beat drops out more than once, giving the faux feeling that the song is about to end, and then joyfully kicking back in. It is the kind of the song that leaves you on the edge of your seat, the kind of song you hit repeat for. When it finally fades out, it is to a wall of distortion.
“The Hope Slide” isn’t just a collection of songs; it is an album. Taking on the gambit in thematic content, unified by the concept of “adversity,” this an album for deep contemplation and emotional release. The most interesting track is “The Survivor”: no beat, no distinct vocals – carried by a simple guitar arrangement and vocal effects, with background “noise,” it is a distinct take on the idea of surviving. I guess if you were a survivor of anything tragic like the Hope Slide, it is not an adrenaline-rush, hyper situation, but rather something slower and methodic, overwhelming but with light at the end of the tunnel. And the track captures just that. That sort of motif is kept in the introduction of the next track, “The Ninth Compartment,” but nearly two-minutes into the track, there is a three-sixty and the electro-rock shoegaze starts.
But each song is an adventure on its own; each song has its own distinct personality. “The Westward Pull” is sonically a world of sultriness, while “A Red Forest” is a world of anxiousness. The opening track, “White Corvette,” is one continual undertow that shifts in intensity again and again, while “Topple the Sky” (ironically) gives you that feeling of drifting through air.
I can easily go track-by-track and say something about each song; this is one of those few albums that I’m simply addicted to each song. Galloway and Lucas have created the dreampop / shoegaze monument of the year with “The Hope Slide.” If you are fan of these genres and bands like Cocteau Twins, Curve, Kitchens of Distinctions, Lush, Swallow, and Ride, this is the band for you. And if you have no clue on who these bands are or what dreampop or shoegaze is, then The Hope Slide is the perfect place to start your journey of discovery. (I know it is a hard sell without being able to share a video, but you have to trust me on this one.) In one word, the album is “Ace!”
1. White Corvette
2. The Prince William Sound
3. Topple the Sky
4. A Red Forest
5. In Ashe
6. The Survivor
7. The Ninth Compartment
8. The Westward Pull
Keep up with The Hope Slide at MySpace.