The industrial music explosion of the late 20th century was followed by slow-growing tendrils, splinters and echoes. Shimmer Crush‘s debut album is one of these. One can hear the ghosts of her influences (Gridlock, Skinny Puppy) in these sounds, although These Four Walls is less overt than the oeuvre of those bands. Vocals, few as they are, are spare and buried; tempos are evident, but beats are few and far between. These Four Walls acts as a sponge painting, an abstract image of the original design, with rough edges made smooth. An alarm sounds in “Denial”, although faintly, as if the danger is far off or muted. The aforementioned bands, as well as the others in their general family (Front Line Assembly, haujobb, offered a sense of immediate danger with an underlying current of beauty; Laurel Daugherty-Seto flips the script, offering immediate beauty with an underlying current of danger. Only when the beats come to the fore (two minutes into “Paresthesia”) does the balance shift.
The album cover is a perfect reflection of the contents, and vice versa. Impressionistic in nature, the art (with photography by Daugherty-Seto and design by Stephen Seto) defies instant interpretation. One thinks that one can discern the shapes (a fish, forest, a rubber tube?), but one will probably be wrong. In the same way, the music camouflages its treasures by offering a mixture of sounds both sharp and blurred. Could a forest of fish exist? If so, Shimmer Crush has found it.
Daugherty-Seto’s biography states that she has always been surrounded by musicians and artists, and that it was inevitable she joined their ranks. One advantage of waiting so long to release an industrial album is the luxury of appreciating what has been done, and more importantly, recognizing what has been overdone. There’s only so far one can push anger and aggression until it becomes a caricature of itself. Save for silence, subtlety has no such limits. And These Four Walls is a subtle album. This being said, we wouldn’t mind a remix EP (on CD of course!), which might pump up the bass of “Dwelling (In a Shroud”) or transform “The Depths of Experience” into a pounding club track. The potential is there, although such treatments would work better separately. As it stands, These Four Walls flows smoothly from beginning to end, like a stream in the upper branches of the trees. (Richard Allen)