3. The Same Thing Goes For Christmas
They took their name from a song by Swervedriver and painted soundscapes like Slowdive. This album disarms me with its beauty track after track.
Confession time: I never heard any of Sciflyer’s music until fellow Big Takeover writer Ben Vendetta and Elephant Stone label head contacted me about doing a review. None of that matters as I now have a lovely new release to delve into. And no, I am not part of a younger audience (sorry I don’t meet your target demographic, guys). I’m one of those antique music fans who’s been around since the late 70s, and I love discovering new (to me) music. I sit here on this very rainy day in New England and let this blissful, gazed out music fill my ears.
Some background is in order for people not familiar with this group’s history. They formed in 2001 in Alameda, California and were labelled ‘nu-gaze’ as part of the same wave of bands that included High Violets and Voyager One. Some of these other bands became better known, and fame eluded Sciflyer. In 2005, they dropped the original version of this EP on Clairerecords, receiving rave reviews and a smattering of college radio airplay. But despite this EP being named one of the top 100 shoegaze albums of all time by Sounds Better With Reverb, they faded into obscurity and this EP went out of print — until now. On the 11th anniversary of its release, Elephant Stone has reissued the EP in a revised edition. It contains versions of the songs originally intended for release, plus it restored the song “Chemical World”, which guitarist/vocalist Steve Kennedy removed from the original at the last second. It also contains lyrics, which were never part of the original EP.
The EP opens with the moody, mid-tempo “The Nation”, which burbles along pleasantly with subdued vocals. It has a great hook on the bridge, which will get your toes and fingers tapping.
“Pacific NW” is shimmering dream gaze that floats about while you try to decipher the words (no cheating by checking the lyric sheet). “The Same Thing Goes For Christmas” is clear and bright, much like some of the work from Britain’s Pale Saints. The words are recessed so deep they become part of the melodic tapestry. It moves past like a shining skein of silk, and catches you up in its musical snare. “Like An Ion” unfolds in similar fashion, but cuts its sonic treats down to just under four minutes. Kennedy murmurs under layers of hazy melodies, and it passes too quickly.
“Chemical World” is fuzzed out psychedelia, inspired heavily by 60s influences. And finally, the 13:45 minute “Never Come Down” comes swirling out of the gate like the long lost cousin of Swervedriver circa 99th Dream. Some of it repeats a bit too much, but things start gelling at around 6 minutes. I love the trippy guitars here, and the indecipherable vocals just add to the mystery and mayhem. This song alone would make the hearts of stoners everywhere flutter in delight, and it leaves you twirling in a trancelike hallucination. In summary, this is a supremely trippy experience, one that veers far closer to psychedelia than any other label applied to this group. Great to see reissues of this kind, with thanks to Ben Vendetta and the guys in the band for making this available to fans everywhere.
When I first saw this I knew it looked familiar. That’s because it originally came out in 2005 on the Clairecords label. Anywho, this is a reissue by the Elephant Stone label out of Ohio (a label we haven’t heard from in a while) and it’s most excellent. The record was originally a 5-song EP but they added a song on here and changed a few arrangements around on another song. Sciflyer are a California band who specialize in moody dream pop and they do what they do very well. The band’s leader, Steve Kennedy, is an excellent songwriter (not sure how he gets some of those gorgeous sounds out of his guitar and tape usage but he does!) while he has a trusty rhythm section in bassist Kim Oberly and drummer Roger Chandler. The songs can work as individual pieces or as a whole, it’s great either way as cuts like “Pacific NW,” “Like an Ion” and “Chemical World” are too great for words. Not sure why this band isn’t mentioned in the same breath as other masters like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive but they certainly should be. If you missed this the first time around do not miss it this time.
Sciflyer’s 6-track EP, The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things [Revised Edition] is a reissue of the band’s 2005 EP of the same name, but unique in that it contains original versions of the songs that were either changed last minute (Pacific NW), or scrapped altogether (Chemical World). It’s an album rich with crisp jangly guitars and washed-out ethereal vocals of Steve Kennedy that are more characteristic of heavy shoegaze instrumentation than lyrics. Unlike the original, however, the lyrics are included in the liner notes.
The pop/shoegaze fusion works beautifully on opening track “The Nation”, where the guitar jangle of Kennedy and snappy drumming of Skott Bennett (for this track only, Roger Chandler handles the rest) hover above the wall of sound to give some degree of clarity to the vocals. The eye-closer chord modulations into deep buzz-saw guitars are reminiscent of the very best of Catherine Wheel (Ferment) and were cause enough for repeat play before delving deeper into the EP. “Pacific NW” follows very much the same formula but with more focus on the guitar progressions and the thick bass guitar chug of Kim Oberly that drives the song from its start to finish. “Pacific NW” was stripped of vocals, shortened to the 3-minute mark and renamed “Promixa Centauri” on the original EP.
Midway through the EP, “The Same Thing Goes For Christmas” begins with a solid minute of the album’s finest guitar melody before Kennedy’s vocals very subtlety float into the background. At 6 and 1/2 minutes, it’s a song made to sit back and disappear into.
“Like An Ion” has all the makings of a great Ride song, from its energetic pace, to its catchy transitions. That said, it’s song that would pop if the vocals were pulled out of the drone and into the forefront. The lyrics when read are interesting, memorable, and would be perfect to sing along to, if you could only hear them.
Previously excluded from the original EP, the aptly named “Chemical World” is a fuzzed-out head-bopping trip through a haze of guitar crunch and an almost jolly bass hook as Kennedy sings “doesn’t matter if you’re high as a kite or not”….”it’s just a chemical world.” It’s short, and sweet, and is a fitting segue for the final track “Never Come Down”, a near 14-minute epic soundscape that ends the record perfectly.
-- DISARM MAGAZINE (Formerly StepOn)
Founded in the early 2000s out of California, Sciflyer‘s craft drowns out vocals with a soundscape birthed to battle for your mind. An intriguing emphasis on instrumentals certainly levels the field, and challenges our focus to shift away from a lyrical body of work. Even the formerly out-of-print 2005 version made a purposeful declaration of such, having completely left out lyrics from the release.
The Age of Lovely Intimate Things [Revised Edition] is a genre-revival, pulling its own weight with a well-paced claim of origination before their own time. The album artwork mirrors their tone and meaning, providing an incredible depth to this production, blurring out a raging wildfire tearing through a forest. Seeming like a well-kept secret, a gentle wall of noise still keeps your attention throughout the album.
Naturally sprawling, confident, and positive, “The Same Thing Goes For Christmas” is a light introduction to a degree higher of harshness, transitioning into “Like An Ion”. Sciflyer’s beyond-the-surface storytelling here is cast as a strength, taking listeners through a fog of both trance and enlightenment. Ultimately, pop elements most clearly emerge in “Chemical World” as the lyrics nearly overtake still increasingly distorted backdrops, although the blurring wins out.
The concluding chorus found in “Never Come Down” is a fittingly entitled wrap-up of a worthwhile odyssey, that lends itself to subconsciously latching onto a person’s mind. Living and breathing in the background with their drowned out vocals, The Age of Lovely Intimate Things [Revised Edition] champions a sonic dreamscape, interbred with a pop-like inspiration.
Once upon a time, shoegazer (or dream pop, or bliss pop, or whatever) was a niche market, with very little credibility aside from the fanatics who loved My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Lush, and a handful of other bands. Little groups came and went, developing cult followings before disappearing back into the hazy ether from whence they came. Over the last few years, though, the genre has become much more important and visible in mainstream music circles, with once-small bands returning from obscurity to find that their reputation has grown considerably.
One such band is Sciflyer. Hailing from California, and led by Steve Kennedy, the band became a stalwart of the leading US shoegaze/dream pop label of the era, Clairecords. After self-releasing a handful of EP’s, they signed to the label in 2003, and released their excellent debut album, Fair-Weather Karma. Their follow-up release, The Age Of Lovely, Intimate Things, was a mini-album that has just been expanded, remastered, and reissued.
It’s easy to understand why this little record is being reissued; it’s a fun little slice of bliss-pop (or dream pop or shoe gaze or whatever the hell you wanna call it). At the time, yours truly loved the pulsating groove of “The Nation,” with its sunny-day haze and California sun vibe. Sure, the vocals were obscured by the music, but that’s exactly what you’d come to expect from the genre. I was also fond of the jangle-pop of “The Same Thing Goes For Christmas,” and the unedited take of “Proixma Centauri” found here (now titled “Pacific NW”) is still as jaunty as the original. “Never Come Down” turns from the British-minded shoe gazing side of the pond and aims straight at American psych-rock; it’s hard not to think of Brian Jonestown Massacre when you delve into the song’s thirteen minutes.
Does this mark a return for Sciflyer? Interesting to see how it plays out. Last year, they released an odds-and-sods EP entitled Energizer that sounded real nice, so maybe the book isn’t closed just yet….
Sciflyer is the project of Steve Kennedy, a true pioneer in shogaze/blisspop circles. Of course, his bandmates give life to his creations: Kim Oberly (bass), Roger Chandler (who played drums on this ep) and Scott Eberhardt (who is the current drummer), and Jeremy Nunes (live – guitar). The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things was originally released in 2005 on Clairecords and has now been re-released in 2016 on Elephant Stone Records. If you do not know The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things, it is an important EP in the history of shoegaze given both its time of release and the exquisite tracks. Sciflyer‘s early work came at a time when shoegaze was on the brink of extinction, particularly in Britain and places them as pioneers of the genre on the North American continent. Also, the original release of this EP had five tracks rather than six and the second song has changed considerably, both in name and in structure. Also included in the new CD packaging are lyrics on the inside of the front cover. A very nice edition to the disc. Lastly, before getting to the individual tracks, it should be mentioned that the production value on the revised edition of The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things has been considerably bettered.
“The Nation” kicks off the EP with blissed out, layered guitars and subtle dreamy vocals from Kennedy. The song is prescient and still, unfortunately, timely. Kennedy sings “we all could get over ourselves and do right by each other / whichever comes first / and the last thing anyone needs to see is another carnival show / we’re all a nation of voyeurs, just waiting for someone to be hurt or something much worse.” Nothing much has changed in the 11 years since the release of this EP. There is a beautiful musical juxtaposition between the bright, hopeful guitars and the melancholy vocals and lyrics. Some hope amid that present unpleasantness that, clearly, has not gone away. Bass and drums drive the song along at mid-tempo with some slight fuzz on the bass. The second track has been renamed from “Proxima Centauri” to the more down to earth “Pacific NW”. Further, “Pacific NW” is a longer track and includes vocals, which “Proxima Centauri” did not. It’s a complete reimagining of the song. “Pacific NW” has a circular guitar line with driving bass and crash-heavy drums, creating a wall of sound which echoes in the speakers. There is beautiful, eruptive noise here, palpable and enigmatic. There is a relational quality to the deeply embedded lyrics with clear mentions of rainstorms coming repeatedly. The “Pacific NW” and it’s unpredictable, constant rain and gloomy weather are reflected in the tonality of the track: driving, beautiful, and awash in sound.
“The Same Things Goes for Christmas” has this beautiful set of guitar riffs that play off one another. They are bright and sparkling, twinkling in an ever-expanding conversation. Riffs with backward effects play along as bass and drums give the various guitar parts glue. There is a certain way that Sciflyer deftly places the listener in this blissed out state while singing of difficult and sometimes dark subject matter. “Like an Ion” swirls about with deeper tones and more fuzz. Kennedy sings “don’t try to make me feel like I’m alive, cuz I’m alright / the money tree, it is abhorred by bird and bee / and the things they know come naturally / like an ion.” The fuzz really creates a buzzing feel, evoking the “bee” imagery in the lyrics and the tension in the relational content.
“Chemical World”, the new track which was not on the original release, begins with bass and swinging percussion with walls of fuzzed out guitar. There is a psychedelic twinge here that really gives the lyrics thrust. The 70’s drip through the speakers mixing in the shoegaze haze as Kennedy sings about someone who has partaken of some chemical pleasures. “Never Come Down” evokes some of the more spacey sounds found in earlier Sciflyer, with fuzzy, screechy guitars and slow lurking bass and drums. Rumbles and bleeps swell as the walls of sound swirl about with layers lurking in the speakers. “Never Come Down” has both the longest run time and the shortest lyrical context, creating a shoegaze, wall of sound jam of epic proportions. Again, Kennedy is brilliant at placing things in opposition to one another to create a more meaningful piece than those things would be in separate spaces or wholly other arrangements.
In the history of shoegaze, Sciflyer has been an important band, particularly as they emerged in the early 2000’s when shoegaze all but died in Britain. They should be recognized as part of that important history. The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things is both timely in its re-release and a chance for fans of the genre to encounter an important record if they missed it the first time around. Kennedy and company’s shoegaze style holds up after over ten years with depth and a unique level of sophistication.
With five tracks clocking in at just over a half an hour, Sciflyer's approach is true to the shoegazer tact of yore on The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things, while maintaining a uniqueness that sets it apart from the Ride and Swervedriver worshipers that have scattered the alternative music landscape since the early '90s. Launched with the dreamy, muted crawl of "The Nation", Sciflyer thrive on atmospherics, as evidenced by the uplifting instrumental "Proxima Centauri" and the lilting, acoustic-steered "The Same Thing Goes for Christmas." While the highlight, "Like an Ion," glistens in homage to the aforementioned Ride, the disc's 13-minute closer is as epic as it is redundant, meandering on to the point where it loses effect. Outside of this misstep, Sciflyer's sonic affairs are not only in order, but hell-bent on reviving an otherwise dormant music style.
For a number of years, Sciflyer has been at the front of the revivalist shoegaze scene. Last year's Fair Weather Karma was a mid-tempo opus of dense guitars and brilliant rhythm work. The just released ep The Age Of Lovely, Intimate Things is the next logical step in the progression and growth of the band, with one notable exception. Before now, the band has always had vocals that played a backseat role to the rest of the music, but were always distinctively vocals, and recognizable. On TAOLIT the band seems to have toned down the vocal production to a level of sub-instrumentation. The words are mumbled and nowhere on the record do the lyrics draw attention to themselves, as they can never be understood. That is my one and only complaint about this set of tunes though…
The album is full of the jangling guitars and crispy drumming that set apart the shoegaze bands from the rest of the dreampop crowd. These songs float around your head, swirling masses of glorious sonic splendor. The drumming is understated at most times, providing a gentle rhythmic undercurrent for the entire record. Melodically, TAOLIT is highly advanced and shows a total growth from Sciflyer's previous works, finally ranking them right up alongside the old masters of the genre, such as Slowdive. The guitars achieve some fantastic tonal qualities, especially on "Like An Ion", where there is a sharp, yet smooth, buzzing fuzz guitar that makes the song an immediate favorite. "Never Come Down" takes the beauty and calm of the previous four tracks and elevates it to a sonic level resembling the early days of My Bloody Valentine - full of eerily pitched distortions and feedback heavy lead lines built on a stoic and precise slowdown throb.
This new record will appeal to established fans of shoegaze, and established fans of Sciflyer's work.
For a shoegazer fan, Sciflyer’s newest LP, The Age of Lovely, Intimate Things is pure gold, baby! Sciflyer, which sounds like a five-piece, crams a whole lot of sound into this music for only being a threesome. I would like to know just how many effects pedals it takes to make a Sciflyer record. The main appeal to Sciflyer has always been Kennedy’s amazing guitar work and the band’s marvelous rhythm section. With Kim Oberly on bass and Roger Chandler on drums, the rhythm section plays like they are jamming behind Steve’s guitar work. It all sounds a bit complicated, but I am sure it isn’t, as all of this jamming seems natural. The hushed vocals, jangly guitars, and the sexy basslines are slick, and you would be hard pressed to find a “shoegazer” band that does it better.
Steve Kennedy - guitars, voice, tape
Skott Bennett - drums on The Nation
Basic tracks recorded by Ron Guensche at New Future Vintage.
Overdubs and mixdown done on analog 8-Track tape at Area 52 by Steve Kennedy.
Original 5-Track EP version was released on August 16, 2005 by Clairecords (FERN_063).