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Music Review: Engineers – Three Fact Fader

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Engineers are a four-piece band who, ever since the release of their 2005 debut album, have been favorably compared to everyone from My Bloody Valentine to Phil Spector (of all people), but who in reality sound like none of them.

Most often associated with what's been labeled "shoegaze" (which is where the My Bloody Valentine comparisons probably spring from), what Engineers share with other bands of that genre is an ability to slowly build musical layers into a sweeping wall of sound (hence, the nods to Spector).

Using a mostly basic lineup of guitars, bass, voice, and drums — along with keyboards and the occasional string quartet — what these guys really specialize in is dreamy, hypnotic soundscapes that, if anything, remind me of the gorgeously constructed noise of mostly forgotten nineties bands like Ride and Medicine.

When it works, which it does throughout most of Three Fact Fader, the net result is music that mostly washes over you in waves. There are certainly some commonalities with the so-called shoegaze bands, but for my money Engineers take things a step further.

What Engineers don't share with those bands, however, is their often brash approach. The music here also doesn't come so much in the form of traditional songs, as it does in deep, dense layers of sound.

Take a track like "Brighter Than We Fall," for instance. Here, the sort of echo-drenched guitar that wouldn't be out of place on a prog-rock album by Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree draws you in for several minutes, gathering quiet intensity until, before you know it, you are enveloped in a wall of near cacophonous noise by the end. The effect — which is literally like being sucked down into a tunnel — is nonetheless a euphoric one. Cacophony has rarely sounded this good.

On "Hang Your Head," the effect is much the same — only this time the layers are in the voices (and isn't that a tambourine I hear way down there somewhere?). The thing here is that these Engineers don't write their music so much as construct it brick by brick.

Remember the feeling Lennon was going for in the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows"? This is awful close to that, only multiplied by several levels of blissful, sonic intensity.

It's hard to put into words really. Call it a transcendental joyride without the Maharishi, or a little like falling deep down the rabbit hole without the drugs (or the soporific New Age Music).

All I know is I really like it, and I'm betting you will too.

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://everythingisamess.wordpress.com Tom Johnson

    Glad to see you like this, Glen. I wish more people would pick up on these guys, too, and I don’t understand why they aren’t. It’s perfect music for these frantic times – “slow you down” music that isn’t depressing in the slightest.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanks Tom. I’m still not sure I totally get the “shoegaze” label — I see these guys as more like ethereal dream-pop with a slightly hard edge to it. All I know is I’m a sucker for anything that’s as layered with noise as this is. Thanks for weighing in (and for introducing me to these guys…credit where credit is due).

    -Glen

  • http://www.theneverendinglight.com/ nick lotze

    Do you get the basic, most stripped down definition of Shoegaze is basically because the guitarist uses a lot of effect pedals and when you watch him play, he’s gazing down at his feet. This was what Shoegaze originally meant, I know a lot of hipster lingo got in the way since its inception but yeah..