A 24 Syllable Haiku
By: Eric Greenwood
With an impressive wall of guitars guiding its slow and shimmering songs, Isobella returns on its second album with another collection of dreamy albeit derivative pop. Let"s get the obligatory references out of the way. Yes, Isobella owns a copy of My Bloody Valentine"s Loveless and very probably everything Lush released before Split in 1994. Perhaps, some Pale Saints and Slowdive as well. "Shoegazer" is the common denominator, of course- the early 1990"s fad where bands filtered their guitars through countless effects and drowned in a pool of reverb and feedback all the while staring at the ground.
Isobella tries to distance itself from that term in its brief biography, but the fact that its mentioned at all reveals a marketing ploy that"s too clever by half. If you"ve never heard of "shoegazer" music then Isobella would gladly lump itself in that category, but if you"re a jaded music fan, then "shoegazer" is far too ambiguous of a term to describe this band. Ahh, but you can"t have it both ways. As unoriginal as Isobella is on the surface, the band does have a propensity for glacial melodies and otherworldly soundscapes. Every song plods along at the same pace, making it very difficult to distinguish one song from the next, but Laura Poinsette"s vocals careen beautifully amid the waves of textured guitars.
While bands like Low and Codeine play very, very slowly, they also employ a set of dynamics that climaxes as effectively as noisy rock and roll does. Isobella"s dynamic is one-dimensional, and so is its songwriting formula, both of which are devoid of anything resembling a climax. Wall of noise versus plaintive vocal line. Repeat ad nauseum. Sure, it"s dreamy and all, but the schtick gets old fast. There are plenty of people who will eat this up, and Isobella plays the retro-shoegazer purist part very well- just don"t expect it to have much of an impact on you either musically or emotionally.
This one trick pony will either lure you into its cloudy lair with sheets of affected distortion and floating vocals or cause you to eject the disc after three songs once you get the gist of it. Since Isobella has developed its sound from such a specific aspect of the whole "shoegazer" scene, there"s little room for people to be on the fence. Isobella doesn"t seek out any obvious hooks or even a danceable beat; the band seems too content to rely on the "prettiness" of its sound effects. Taken one song at a time A 24 Syllable Haiku has some remarkable moments both vocally and on guitar, but it"s somewhat of a boring chore to sit through in its entirety.