Undefined Collective

Album Review


Miserable Miracles


William Espinoza

October 24, 2018

Let’s go ahead and get it out of the way. Miserable Miracles is not Everything Else Matters, and if you go into it with that kind of expectation, you’re going to be disappointed. Pinkshinyultrablast’s familiar walls of dizzying noise are for the most part out of the picture, and in their place are industrial drums and shimmering synths, making a record more reminiscent of New Order than My Bloody Valentine. For a band that has built a cult following based entirely on their unique take of new-age shoegaze, it’s a pretty strong pivot. Fortunately, the decision to forego their traditional 90s influences in pursuit of a mix of dreamy 80s new wave power ballads and slow burning ambient pop is not without merit. By all means a successful experiment, Miserable Miracles proves the group is far from a one-trick and intends on cultivating their sound while reaching out to new audiences.
In spite of all this change, one constant remains. The trademark trance-inducing voice of lead singer, Lyubov, is still nothing less than a modern marvel, and just as she found a home in the band’s barrages of sounds, she easily soars over this album’s many electronic layers. “Triangles” sees her hazy delivery feed into the slow climb of the oscillating synths which makes the steady beat of the drum machine even more resonant. Almost every moment where she’s singing on this album is a highlight with only one small falter on “Eray.” Normally there is an array (no pun intended) of reverb at work, but at the beginning of each short verse after the chorus they leave her voice almost entirely untreated. The result is singing that just doesn’t quite land and even sounds a little off pitch. However, the damage is contained as it only makes up a tiny portion of one song.

By all means a successful experiment, Miserable Miracles proves the group is far from a one-trick and intends on cultivating their sound while reaching out to new audiences.

If only to keep the listener guessing, the consistent dance-pop immediately gives way to the album’s two ambient numbers. It would be unfair to say the change of pace was unwelcome, but the abrupt transition from the intense climax of “Eray” to the aimless wandering of “Blue Hour” comes off as a bit unnatural. This isn’t helped by the fact that “Blue Hour” isn’t really capable of filling the massive void it creates, and even though it’s hardly offensive to the ears, it’s still easily forgettable. The second ambient track “Earth and Elsewhere” asserts much more of a presence than its predecessor, dropping quiet bombs of tones that slowly fade out into the distance. As the title suggests, there is a sense of floating around in space, and the intermittent trickle of synths feel like an occasional glimpse of light from a distant star. Even as an instrumental cut, the band demonstrates they can still flourish without having to lean on their lead singer.
The transition back to dreamy dance-pop is hardly an exercise in subtlety. “Taleidoscope” immediately jumps into a fairly weak stab at an upbeat synthpop chorus, and ends up feeling a bit dated and under-developed. It may take a second to get going, but once the rhythmic claps and subtle bass kick hit, it settles into a really solid groove. On the closer “Looming,” Pinkshinyultrablast take a turn back to their noisey roots but not without a little jaunty synth play. It’s a gentle reminder that they haven’t completely forgotten their roots and that they’re still one of the best in the business when it comes down to it.
With Miserable Miracles the band finally lives up to its name as almost every song embodies a pink, shiny, ultra blast. There is no better example of this idea than the best track the album has to offer, “Find Your Saint.” It’s lost, longing and has just enough guarded optimism to feel real. The bass prevents the slower refrains from feeling empty and contributes to the incredibly textured feel of the song. The drums, although far from complex, form a steady backbone for the entire song and serve as a strong complement to the dynamic astral synth line. All elements of the production really meld together and do an incredible job of building energy and subverting it only to build it up again. Just when you think it can’t get any better, Lyubov sings “I used to talk… about it,” and triumphant chimes ring over all the compounding layers previously explored in the song to form a glorious collage of psychedelic euphoria. It’s a breathtaking moment, and for it alone the album would be worthwhile.
This record is far from perfect. There’s a lot of ideas being tossed around, and they often pull in opposing directions. It makes for a record that feels a bit disjointed, but in a lot of ways covering this much ground is to the benefit of the tape. Although it is not without its missteps, most of them do not really sour any of the tracks to the point of being beyond redemption. The group has always had a knack for spinning nostalgia into innovation, and Miserable Miracles is no exception to the rule. Plain and simple, these guys make good music. It may not be packaged quite as nicely as past efforts, but the sparkling world they create is no less worthwhile.

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