Airiel is a shoegaze/dream pop quartet from Chicago. It started out in 1997 as a two-man project when Jeremy Wrenn (vocals/guitars) and some other guy formed the band in Bloomington Indiana. Over the course of 20 years, the lineup has changed a bunch. All of the founding members of the terrific Chicago shoegaze band Lightfoils were either official members of Airiel, or they made guest appearances on their recordings. Through all of the lineup changes, the only consistent member is frontman Jeremy Wrenn. These days, he’s joined by Andrew Marrah out of the band New Canyons (guitars/synths), Matt Blanton (bass), Nick Bertling out of the Baltimore band Alto Verde (drums). Spencer Kiss was in the band and may still be, but it’s certainly Bertling playing drums in the video for today’s song.
In 2003 and 2004, the band released a series of four critically acclaimed EPs called Winks and Kisses which were later re-released as a boxed set. They released their debut album The Battle of Sealand in the summer of 2007. Five years later, Shelflife Records put out the Kid Games EP. Five more years later, they released the long-awaited sophomore long player.
I still think that the band, and especially Wrenn’s vocals, sound like they’re from the East or Southeast regions of England in the mid 1990s instead of present-day Chicago. I’m thinking Ride and The Catherine Wheel. Lots of delay and flange and fuzz on the guitars. Those guitars have a very bright, chiming quality, but there’s still something that weighs it all down. It’s like breathing fresh air underwater.
The new album came out on October 13, and I’ve had it in my catalog since then, but I didn’t get to spend any real time with it until this week. It was everything I hoped for from a new Airiel record, and actually quite a bit more. I don’t think there’s a bad song or any “filler” on the album, and it certainly made the long wait worthwhile.
This is the album-opening song:
“This is Permanent” by Airiel
In the 30-second intro, the synthetic drums are all over the stereo field, and I love that. That aspect of it reminds me of the drums at the very end of the extended 7″ version of Thomas Dolby’s smash hit “She Blinded Me With Science”. I still remember how much that song, and that trick in the stereo field blew me away as a small boy.
After that intro, the noise kicks in, and it gets even better. Wrenn has told people that his band is “loud… pretty… You can dance to it”. I’m not sure about the dancing part, but it’s certainly loud and pretty.
The aforementioned video is no frills. Pretty much a performance video shot in black & white with a couple of different cameras and lenses. Still though, it’s cool to see the pedal boards they use.
You can buy the album as a digital download or as a 2XLP via Bandcamp here.