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Birds EP by Ceremony (Review)

Ceremony doesn’t bring anything new to the shoegaze formula; rather, they take the genre’s hallmarks and just turn them up way past 11.
Birds by Ceremony

First off, this does not concern the acclaimed punk/hardcore band named Ceremony. (There was some confusion when I tweeted about this last week.) No, this is about the latest from the shoegaze/noise-pop band led by John Fedowitz (formerly of Skywave). But if you’ve listened to any of this Ceremony’s output, you know they’re pretty hardcore, too. For the last decade or so, Ceremony have carved out a singular niche in the shoegaze genre — and they’ve done so with massive blasts of feedback and guitar noise.

Ceremony doesn’t bring anything new to the shoegaze formula; rather, they take the genre’s hallmarks and just turn them up way past 11. Ceremony loves to bury their songs under mountains of guitar fuzz and feedback and lace them with brittle drum programming. Meanwhile, Fedowitz’s emotionless vocals ring out in the distance as if captured from a broken down AM radio or phoned in to the studio. It all blends into one amorphous head-splitting mass (which is doubly true on headphones) that seems like it should be distinctly unfriendly to the listener. So why subject oneself to something so grating?

First, there’s something cathartic about the experience, about making your way through the storm and coming out on the maelstrom’s other side (mostly) unscathed — especially when it sounds like your speakers or headphones could rupture at any moment. Second, if you’re able to peer past the wall of noise, you’ll find that, much like The Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, and Flying Saucer Attack, Ceremony’s songs are pop songs at their heart. Unabashedly romantic and sweetly melodic pop songs, to be specific.

Somewhere, beneath all of the ear-blistering noise and speaker-shredding feedback, Fedowitz intones “Just a dream I have of you/In the sky it felt so true/Noone will ever take it away… Our feet won’t touch the gound/Noone will come between us today” (“Birds”), laments the loss of a youthful romance (“Until Forever”), and professes “I’ve never had someone like you before/I’ve never had someone in my life like you before” (“Deep Breath”). Or at least that’s what I think he sings.

It’s frequently impossible to make out Fedowitz’s vocals amidst the sonic onslaught; you might catch a stray syllable here or there or a few snippets of vocalization but then they’re washed away by another wave upon wave of feedback. There’s already something distant, alien, and mysterious about the music, thanks to Fedowitz’s vocal style, and the constant barrage of feedback only heightens that sensation, that enigmatic experience.

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