At the end of 2019, prolific and eclectic band/duo Daisies’ “What Are You Waiting For? album ended up in my top 5 albums of the year, deciding it sounded like “A Saint Etienne on acid, DJ Shadow in a dress, an offbeat Dubstar? I hear the underground sound of the 90’s pass in all colours in modes and I am liking it. ” After many revivals of sounds of the 80’s and 90’s passing the revue (shoegaze, dreampop, sophistipop, C86), I hadn’t come across and new/modern band that focused on the indie-dance sounds of 90’s as of yet. When I say “Indie Dance” I realise that this is a pretty wide range to narrow down as, musically, there was so so much going on in the 90’s. In the span of merely a decade, danceable indie went from Baggy/Rave, Acid Jazz, Hip Hop to Trip Hop, Easy Tunes/ Loungecore, Drum ‘n Bass and Breakbeat towards the end. From the soft house of Crystal Waters, along the sugary dance-pop of Saint Etienne, via the complex rhythms of Goldie to the dusky late-night jazzbeats of DJ Shadow: it was a period of intense creativity and true trendsetting.
Can we speak of a revival though? I think I can cautiously say I hear it coming. It can be heard in Pond House, Saint Etienne’s latest single, totally harking back to their sample-driven origins. We can hear it on several new tracks on Men I Trust‘s new Untourable album (5AM Waltz, Serenade of Water), Hatchie‘s new single “This Enchanted” or simply the overt Massive Attack influence on Little Simsz‘ rap-sody Introvert.
But the track that showcases my hunch most clearly, is Tangerine Spritz, last month’s single and video release from Brooklyn based Lunarette who seem to be going on a more stylistic adventure these days. Members Kevin Doxsey, Brian Alvarez, Colin O’Neill, and Jackie Mendoza seem to love collaborating because of their divergent tastes which is a pretty crucial part of their formula that defies comfortable categorization. On their debut EP, Clair de Lunarette, most songs were still pretty much in line with their dreampop foundations (former project Gingerly‘s), whereas a song like for example Lucky One was already aspiring beyond these settings. Songwriter Kevin Doxsey explains how he felt completely uninhibited during the writing process of Tangerine Spritz, which he calls a “bubblegum trip-hop one-off“. The graffiti-style visuals and fashion worn by Jackie in the video (directed by Lunarette and Matt Sklar from Phantom Handshakes) completely underline the early 90’s vibe. I seriously think they’re on to something totally original here… it suits them right down to a tee. Album please!
Avant-pop darling Daisies have also just released a new album. Sour Melody is a follow up to the excellent last years’ Daisies in the Studio with DJ Rap Class. With Sour Melody Olympia-based sound wizard Chris McDonnell (TransFX) and the smooth-voiced Valerie Warren continue to deliver their psychedelic symfonies and schizo beats that are heavily inspired by 90’s indie dance. Highlights are Heavy Cream, which reminds me strongly of Sneaker Pimps and Morcheeba, the dubby Legalize Summer which brings us straight back to “Foxbase Alpha” era, and the drum ‘n bass saturated Sour Melody which brings back memories of the days in which we played Adam F.’s Circles to death.
Do we need this revival? Not necessarily. But as everything that’s been done comes back again anyway, I certainly don’t mind revisiting this period in time, as it was a good one for me and I think back of it fondly, certainly when it comes music and subscenes. In that sense, I completely concur with Saint Etienne, who attempt to reproduce that late 1990’s vibe on their latest album “I’ve Been Trying to Tell You”: a reflective sketch of contemporary nostalgia, recalling those years of hope, optimism and creativity. Bring it on!