Quality shoegazer music is alive and well, soundscaping foggy clubs in hipster ‘hoods from coast-to-coast. To wit, SISU, a Los Angeles-based band formed by Sandra Vu, also known for her involvement in various other projects (Dum Dum Girls, The Raveonettes, Boredoms, Midnight Movies).
As preparation for a tour back east, (tonight they’re in Richmond, Washington, D.C. tomorrow), the band played a couple of shows in Los Angeles, grabbing opening slots with Crocodiles and Tanlines at Club Los Globos and The Sayers Club, respectively.
In Silver Lake’s Los Globos they perform as a 4-piece, Vu and keyboardist/sampler-in-chief Julianna Medeiros both having performed earlier in the day at San Francisco’s Outside Lands fest in their roles as members of Dum Dum Girls. Vu cuts a thin figure, that reality enhanced by her darkly monochromatic attire (save burnished burgandy Doc Martens). Bangs and long, dark, perfectly straight hair frame her face and drape her shoulders, enhancing the vertical effect. Through smoke and low, ambient red lighting the jangle of the Fender Jaguar, Johnny Marr-ish in tone, cuts over low-end thumps and space-filling synth and backing female vox that mostly provide tonal contrast.
Some songs are more crepuscular than others, and in those with a darker tonality the drums sometimes seem influenced by “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” The vocals are low in the mix at Los Globos, subservient to the drums (toms) in particular, but are much more balanced at The Sayers Club. Moments draw out a lineage through bands like Belly and Lush, languid builds existing beneath high register vocals. Some songs embrace atmosphere and chiaroscuro — Vu even pulls out a flute on occasion — and others just flat out rip. “Return the Favor” is a particular burner, layered minimalism atop frenetic drumming creating an anxiety-driven journey into darkwave. It’s not intended for mainstream America, but for those who embrace the art within neo-noir, it’s a new(ish) staple in the musical rotation.