Sound — 8
San Francisco's Astral don't make music to quake the earth beneath audiences feet, but they do make music that encapsulates audiences in a wondrous bubble of dreamy soundscapes and ethereal-based raptures reminiscent of the UK's Joy Division and it's present day Editors. Their 6th disc, Sleepwalker, released on March 25, 2008 by Vibraphone Records, has aerial guitar effects and feathery psychedelics that lift listener's up off the ground. Lead vocalist/guitarist Dave Han is an integral part of the shoegazy membranes possesing glossy effects, shimmery passages, and resonating guitar chords made by guitarist/keyboardist John Robles. The subtle grooves of bassist Amy Rosenoff and drummer Shawn Poh congeal with the melodic swirls and lead the speed of the rotating phrases. The music is often coated in gently moving atmospherics like in A Lullaby From Amsterdam and In Circles with dangling silhouettes and airy guitar chords, but the music is not always so pacifying or angelic. The ambient rock temperature of Cracked and Hindsight stir up exciting sensations while balanced on an axel of springy beats that get the blood rushing. The malleable texture of the passages are unearthly, and the exotic flutters and billowing sonic mushrooms rolling along Hindsight are reflective of West Indian Girl. The slow, swirling motions of the title track have a languid gait with a center that breaks into a voluminous crescendo and rapidly spinning sonic showers. The jittery guitar chords of Transmitter create a magnetic gust while the soundscapes of Waterfall have a wondrous shine and guitar chords that rise and stay suspended in mid-air. The light rumbling beats of White Tigers are cuffed by ethereal raptures and scooting chords, which segue into the elegantly scrolled patterns of Winters In May.
Lyrics — 7
Through the satiny melodic coils peaks Han's voice like gently shooting rays. The lyrics are obscure and sometimes resonate with a metaphorical glint such as whisper like a silent scream from Hindsight. Other times, the lyrics project introspective images like in White Tigers with lines like Sitting by the sea again never knowing day or night. Han's vocals gel into the melodic movements, even at times drowning in it's whirlpools, but that is typical of shoegaze material and a distinct characteristic of this genre.
Overall Impression — 8
Astral keep shoegaze material alive and changing with the times. Their ethereal cables and palisades compose a wondrous world that puts the listener in a glass bubble surrounded by dreamy landscapes and fairy-like figures. Astral's album Sleepwalker is familiar sounding by most standards and aurally pleasing. The band updates shoegaze music for burgeoning generations to feel like it is a part of them, instead of music for the generations before them. The band has their music featured on MySpace and on their label's site.