Earlier this year, I was caught (pleasantly) by surprise by Relay’s Type/Void EP, a fantastic and melodic spread of shoegazer pop tinged with a touch of classicism, but outstanding in a league of its own. Though pretty much every other band in 2006 has swathed their guitars in sheets of distortion and effects, Relay’s take was decidedly unique, extremely tuneful and enjoyable. Type/Void had me hooked from the get-go, so much that I even stated in my review of it earlier this year that I’d be counting down the days until the full-length arrived, and now that Still Point of Turning has made its way into my hands, I can safely say that expectations were met and then some.
The bridge between Type/Void and Still Point of Turning is “Driver,” a track that appears on both, and is one of the best songs on either release. At once swirling and shimmering with Philly-gazer effects rain and brimming with bouncy electro-pop synths, it’s something of a meeting place between Stereolab and The Lilys, a distance that’s not so far if you think about it, unless I were to mean geographically, which is somewhat true. Yet “Driver” is merely the tip of the phase shifter. Take “New Domestic Landscape,” which opens the record. It actually more closely mines the farfisa blazing sound of early Stereolab than their local compatriots, organs and jangly guitars creating a gorgeously fuzzy harmony amidst frontman Jeff Zeigler’s trippy, detached vocals.
“Season (Start)” is slower, yet heavier in its psychedelic atmosphere, the sputtering beats trudging through the distorted pool of guitar fuzz. “Context” piles on the Big Muff overdrive sound, beefing up the otherwise gorgeous shoegazer symphony. “IDK” starts off simpler, yet more precise, like a wind-up clock turning its gears and creating an arc with the second hand. Yet soon enough the distortion blasts in again, turning the song into a huge blast of sound that washes back and forth between enormous bursts of thunder and metronomic precision.
Relay are quite an amazing thing to hear, filling stereo speakers with sound that other contemporary fuzz-pop bands could only dream of. While their name might suggest the handing of one task onto another person within the group, this most definitely sounds like the work of a team, coming together to create something powerful together. Zeigler may be at the front of it all, but there’s no “I” in Relay.
The Lilys – Everything Wrong is Imaginary
Stereolab – Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements
Mazarin – Watch It Happen
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.