Isobella - A 24 Syllable Haiku
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Isobella
A 24 Syllable Haiku

Upon hearing even the first 20 seconds of the very first track on this new release by Isobella, you may feel like you're being transported back in time about 10 years, back into shimmery 4AD guitar territory. The group mixes a touch of groups like the Pale Saints into their sound, as well as encorporating some new elements so that you don't feel like they're completely regressive.

Like the word "emo," "shoegaze" has also become sort of a genre catchall in the past several years, but that doesn't mean that Isobella are shying away from it. Comprised of three members, the group mixes swirling guitars, keyboards, and almost ethereal female vocals into a sound that pulls a little from Pale Saints, a little from bands off the Projekt label, and a little from a couple other places.

That opening 20 seconds of the first track that I talk about above are actually some of the louder moments on the album, as "Olive" begins with some heavily layered guitars before dropping off to quieter, chiming guitars when the vocals by Laura Poinsette come in. Never quite front and center, her slightly nasal intonation floats alongside all the other elements in the mix. During the middle part of "Kidnap Someone And Make Them Happy," the combination of vocals and two slightly offset guitar melodies come together for something downright hypnotic.

The group certainly creates some nice musical textures, but the main problem with the album is that the dynamics simply don't change up enough. After the louder opening track, things fall off into a slower, more gentle sound, and don't really pick up again until the sixth track "Autopilot." Musically, the group changes things up slightly on nearly every track, but the quiet, then slightly louder vocals repeat almost the same formula for that middle batch of tracks and by the time the group rocks out a little, it feels like a revelation again.

Still, groups in the past (like the Cocteau Twins) have made entire albums that run along one sort of theme, so I can't entirely discount the album for that. The latter half of the disc definitely picks things up again, and although they never really quicken the pace at all, they add a couple new things that help keep things interesting. If you're a fan of light, dreampop, you'll probably want to check the group out, as they do one thing and do it fairly well, but you may find yourself wondering what would happen if they tossed in a few more surprises.

rating: 610
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00