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Departure by Life on Venus (Review)

The Moscow quintet’s most recent release is a nice dive into the gloomier range of the shoegaze spectrum.
Departure - Life on Venus

Bandcamp recently ran a feature spotlighting Russia’s vibrant shoegaze/dreampop scene (which is further proof of my theory that shoegaze is as malleable and internationally transcendent as any music genre, but I digress). One of the bands featured that immediately caught my ear was the Moscow-based quintet Life on Venus, which only formed in 2016 but have already released several titles.

The 4-song Departure EP on the venerable Shelflife Records (Airiel, The Ocean Blue, Pia Fraus, Pinkshinyultrablast) is their most recent release, and it’s a nice dive into the darker, gloomier range of the shoegaze spectrum.

The EP’s opener, “What Lies Beneath,” is its strongest track, and blends the rainy day atmospherics of Slowdive’s Just For a Day (replete with gauzy male/female harmonies and lyrics about “darkened fields” and “pale shapes”) with the goth-y heaviness of early Bethany Curve. A similar heaviness pervades “Silver Screen” thanks to a glacial bassline that recalls I Could Live in Hope-era Low, while vocalists Dima and Aline sigh spectrally along the song’s edges.

“For the Kill” ups the tempo a bit compared to its predecessors, and allows the band’s dual-guitar approach to shimmer and ring out a bit more. Finally, Departure closes with a wonderful cover of “Girls” by the California-based Fawns of Love that easily stands toe-to-toe with the original.

If I have one quibble with Departure, though, it’s that it’s hampered by a muddy mix that doesn’t quite do justice to the shadowy depths of the band’s sound. While the shoegaze genre is characterized by an aesthetic that necessitates burying everything (vocals, especially) under layers of effects-laden guitars, the elegiac elegance that characterizes Life on Venus’ music would benefit from a slightly cleaner mix.

Life on Venus’ next album, Odes to the Void, is due out later this year on Shelflife, and Departures is intended as a teaser of sorts. And based on what I hear in these four songs, the upcoming Odes to the Void could easily rank as one of 2019’s best shoegaze releases.

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