Charmparticles
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Charmparticles

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE
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Some bands relish darkness. No, I am not referring to those talentless emo/goth hopeless hopefuls either. This one goes out to the artists who actually know more than three chords, the ones who have the ability to create an atmosphere based on their audible songwriting alone. Post-punk was one of the first genres that brought this perspective to the masses, treating us with gems in the works of Joy Division, Bauhaus, and many of those who followed in a similar path; there are simply too many influential examples to name without sounding overbearing. The ability that an artist has to remain consistent while also avoiding repetitive redundancy is harder than it appears. While artistic styles do indeed come naturally to many, it becomes an issue if their aforementioned stylistic viewpoint has a tendency to become a similarly sounding representation every time. Have you ever heard one of the embarrassing Duran Duran albums created in the ’90s? Yeah, that would be an appropriate example. Sure, they established their own sound… a few decades ago, in fact. But now, it seems that their magic is gone. It is becoming rarer to find artists who remain consistent in a subjectively “dark” sound without attempting career revitalizations or anti-aging lotion. But, when one possibly comes along, you know a treat is in store.

When I hear a band like Charmparticles, I know that they are headed for either one or two things: Humiliating backlashes or cult-like followings. The intended path is up to them. What is certain is that they have all the tools. With a vocalist that soars in rare emotional capacity, a guitarist whose infectiously haunting melodies are in the forefront of each song, and a drummer whose fastidious approach seems impressively natural, Charmparticles appear destined for great things. The looming question is whether or not their stylistic approach can translate to a form that does not sound overly repetitive. We have all seen bands in a similar genre fail time after time, giving up hope when realizing that fans really do enjoy diversity when quality prevails. Charmparticles looks to satisfy that expectation. While post-punk certainly remains a rooted influence toward the trio’s gloomy sound, they cite the shoegaze explosion of the early ’90s (specifically Brit shoegazers like Cocteau Twins and Slowdive) as their primary motivation. I personally am viewing their sound as a mixture of shoegaze, post-punk, and mid-’90s adult-alternative. Whichever way you mix and match, the result is quite enjoyable. Also, purely coincidental (and a bit confused by their .co.uk domain), they are the second artist featured on this site in a row that hails from Portland, Oregon. First the folky roots of Leigh Marble and now the dark shoegaze elements of Charmparticles? Man, talk about a diverse music scene.

Speaking of this desirable multifarious mindset, it should be satisfying to know that Charmparticles are at least aware of it. In regard to their debut full-length album, Alive in the Hot Spell, they cite a variety of “spare ballads” and “bombastic, angry rockers”, with a droplet of “pretty pop songs” to please the masses. I take the quoted directly from their official web site; perhaps it can bring them an assorted fan base. Still, I see the majority of future fans as those who prefer the color black (and there is nothing wrong with that!). The album follows up on their 2004 EP, Sit Down For Staying. It featured previous member Adam Wayne, who left the band shortly after its release. Charmparticles remained in a busy state though, keeping with the now-trio of bassist/vocalist Pamela Rooney, guitarist Sarah FitzGerald, and percussionist Nathanael Merrill in their trek to release the first album. Shortly before the recording process for Alive in the Hot Spell, each of the three members spent time in a different part of the world: Rooney in Japan, Merrill in Austria, and Fitzgerald in New Zealand. Their reasons? I have no clue. They claim that it was done to “recharge their batteries solo” and, listening to the album, the impressive chemistry displayed must have done the trick.

There is no doubt in my mind that Alive in the Hot Spell is certainly one of the most ambitious debuts I have come across this year. With the majority of the 12 tracks nearing or surpassing 5 minutes, there are plenty of moments to rejoice about. The most immediately accessible will likely be in the vein of the rollicking “Gold Plated Shot” or “Relapse”, both tracks that rely on rapturous vocals and intensely invigorating guitar arrangements in a successful effort. The futuristic grip that “Gold Plated Shot” manages to maintain with a flurry of spacey synth pads is fully supplemented by FitzGerald’s roaring guitars and Merrill’s ceaseless drums. They both collaborate in full form over Rooney’s fantastic vocals to create a sensuous emotional punch. “Get Your Complex On” is one of the grittiest out of the bench, exposing Merrill’s percussive talents - //obscuresound.com//



Charmparticles —Alive in the Hotspell
{7.7}
Buy it!
{Self-released}

Charmparticles’ Alive in the Hot Spell hit my inbox on the day of Seattle’s largest temperature surge in years. It was a sweltering 89 degrees – inside my house. The last thing I wanted to do was stick another disc in the changer for fear of adding more fuel to the inferno (anything electric generates heat). But I couldn’t resist hearing the latest offering by this Portland-based band. After all, their ethereal, watery guitar-driven sound — just as pleasing as a flowing brook on a hot day — could be just what I needed to cool my soul.

Charmparticles, the blissful shoegazer band that was originally the brainchild of Adam Wayne and Pamela Rooney, have been on the scene for a handful of years now. The band, rounded out by Nathanael Merrill on drums and Sarah FitzGerald on guitar, is best known for their lush, shimmery landscapes of sound. They also employ a classic guy-girl vocal harmony. Or at least they did. Upon opening the press kit for this record, a startling fact hit me: Wayne has left the quartet, returning to California. I think I’d read this a few months ago, but I chose not to remember — or believe. The Rooney-Wayne harmonies — her willowy, haunting soprano juxtaposed against his steady, settling resonance — were what made this band. The sound was classic, and it fit so well with Charmparticles’ dreamy vibe. So without even having heard a note off Alive, I was mourning Wayne’s departure.

I needn’t have been so afraid, because while Wayne’s presence is missed by those who expect to hear him there, the three-piece version of Charmparticles continues to hold its own. I may have been skeptical going in, but halfway through track two, “Gold Plated Shot,” I was immersed. On that track, Rooney soars over the gorgeous sounds behind her while low-register harmonies fill in the gaps where Wayne’s voice used to be (I’m not sure who’s singing those lower-key notes; it could almost be the ghost of Wayne). Pretty, sweeping vocal melodies swirl in “A Danger to Your Health,” with echoes in all the right places.

Some rockers pepper the twelve-song release, too. Back-to-back tracks “Ablation Cascade,” “The Quiet View,” and “Get Your Complex On” pep up the middle half of Alive, taking Charmparticles into heavier territory. In fact, on “Complex,” Rooney and company sound downright angry. But then we’re back to what Charmparticles do best. The first notes of “Kohii” wash over the speakers in a sorrowful, gloomy, beautiful cascade, as Rooney’s soprano overlays the thundering drums and the heart-ripping riffs. By the conclusion, when a chorale of backing vocals and chimes join her, I’ve forgotten that I was ever thinking this record would let me down.

I know I’ve been harping on the lineup change. It’s just that I’ve known of and loved this band since their early inception, going back to the Drive days, and I’m taking Wayne’s exit like a breakup. But as the lyrics of “Relapse” say, “The girl you left behind is fine... I’m better by myself.” I half wonder if Rooney is singing straight to Wayne, though masking it behind lyrics that could be to a lover. In any case, they’re lyrics about change, loss, and moving on.

Rooney, FitzGerald, and Merrill have certainly found their footing as a trio. In fact, since Alive arrived in the mail, the band has signed to Portland-based Terrestrial Records, with plans to re-release their past albums on this startup label. Alive in the Hot Spell is both sorrowful and triumphant, and it’s left me with chills — finally quelling that uncomfortable midsummer heat.
- Three Imaginary Girls


As dreamlike and hooky as ever and bursting with what seems like a lifetime’s worth of conflicting emotion, Charmparticles’ lucid and chord-heavy presence continues to surprise. Riding on last year’s triumphantly simplistic and densely layered Alive in the Hot Spell, the group continues to build on a formula that should have died with Billy Corgan’s credibility. Instead, the riffs keep building—along with Charmparticles’ foothold as a Portland mainstay—from one soaring crescendo to the next.

-AP KRYZA, Willamette Week (March 5th, 2008)
- Willamette Week


Discography

Alive in the Hot Spell (LP), 2007
Sit Down For Staying (EP), 2004
Scenic (EP), 2002

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Bio

Charmparticles are back, and they’re bigger. And smaller. The former quartet, now standing three members strong, has released their first full-length album, Alive in the Hot Spell, building on the success of their well-received 2004 EP, Sit Down For Staying.

The band’s journey from writing room to record release goes literally around the world. The departure of founding member Adam Wayne left remaining members Pamela Rooney, Nathanael Merrill, and Sarah FitzGerald with a rare opportunity to re-evaluate their music and start again — from the beginning. Before heading into the studio, the members recharged their batteries solo, in Japan, Austria and New Zealand respectively. In January 2007 they packed themselves into their winter hideaway and wrote what would in the spring emerge as Alive in the Hot Spell.

Once pigeonholed as a shoegaze band due to their obvious nod to the dreamy, early ’90s sounds of British bands like Cocteau Twins and Slowdive, the new lineup is focused more on allowing space instead of filling it up. “We didn’t want to place the same parts on top of each other, and it became a process that let the elements live and breathe on their own. Then we’d re-evaluate and figure out whether to dust it with something else, leave it alone, or trash it,” says Rooney.

Still plucking certain shoegaze elements from their repertoire, Charmparticles have focused more on songcraft than ever before. “Our process this time was definitely different,” says FitzGerald. “We simply gave every song what we felt it needed—and never once tried to make them ‘sound’ like Charmparticles. We didn’t want to be boxed in by what we had been.”

The messages vary throughout Alive in the Hot Spell’s 12 songs, yet an exquisite, swirling atmospheric quality persists. Rooney’s haunting melodies and counter-melodies are layered with FitzGerald’s shimmering guitar work, infused with countless delays and reverb pedals to create an eerie, dreamlike world. Sprinkled into the mix are violin, toy piano, shakers, sleigh bells and electronic effects, all of which are driven forward by Merrill’s gigantic drums. The result is a sound that is just at home in the lobby of a boutique hotel in Helsinki as it is in a nighttime drive through the desert.

As the group’s first full-length album, Alive in the Hot Spell builds on the fan base Charmparticles have cultivated since their formation in January 2002. After their first release, The Scenic EP, in October of 2002, and Sit Down for Staying in 2004, the trio found a real sense of rebirth this time around. “I really feel like we’re now in a place to realize any musical ambitions we want to realize,” says FitzGerald. “We are liberated from the band we once were — not just from what people expected of us, but what we expected of ourselves.”

With Alive in the Hot Spell, Charmparticles accomplish several new feats—and they sound more than ever like the band they were meant to be.