18 Dec 2021 - Jonas
Shoegaze/Dream pop | Release date: 14 Nov 2021
Saint Petersburg. The second-largest city of Russia, and a veritable hot spot for quality -gaze music, be it blackgaze, dreamgaze, or straight-up shoegaze. Blankenberge, who recently released Everything, their third studio album since 2017, is one of them. But is it even possible to stand out in a genre many regards as stagnant, or even dead, without sounding like a tribute band of ages past?
Fortunately, there is, and there are a few ways to go about it. Disclaimer: What follows will be a random assortment of food and cooking analogies, but I promise it will all make sense in the end, so bear with me!
For the sake of this argument, I’ll use a well-known dish like pizza as a template, more specifically Pizza Margherita, comprising tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, and olive oil. The most common way to stand out is probably to take the original recipe and tweak it one way or the other. Replace the mozzarella with cheddar? Olive oil infused with chili peppers? Bell peppers in favour of tomatoes? Deconstruct it and serve every constituent ingredient on their own? Throw a chopped banana on there? There’s no end to the possibilities! For better or worse, you’ll stand out. The problem with experimenting though is that what you end up serving might not be palatable for anyone but yourself and the odd novelty chaser, which is fine. Thinking outside of the box can be a gruesome process, but without it we wouldn’t even have the genre, or genres, to begin with.
There is, however, another way to set yourself apart from other pizzaiolos (we’re sticking with the analogies), and this is the category I personally put Blankenberge into. They haven’t simply settled for ingredients from the local supermarket. No, they’ve carefully selected the best type 0 flour they could find and combined it with authentic and natural Neapolitan yeast for the dough. Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio, grape tomatoes that grow in the soil around Mount Vesuvius, making them rich with flavour. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, made from the milk of a specific regional breed of water buffalo, making it very creamy and giving it a very pleasant tang. Roll out the dough, thinly, slice tomatoes and mozzarella, put on top, along with some fresh basil leaves, drizzle some quality extra virgin olive oil on top, bake for approximately 75 seconds at 485°C, in a wood-fired stone oven. Done.
Alright, back to reality. What I’ve been trying to convey here is that Blankenberge has taken the classic, tried and true recipe for shoegaze and managed to find the best version of each and every ingredient to create a perfect symphony. The incredibly soothing and ethereal voice of Yana Guselnikova isn’t just a layer in itself but permeates the entirety of Everything, like a guiding light through the thick haze summoned by the sweeping guitar of Daniil Levshin, with the bass by Dmitriy Marakov and drums by Sergey Vorontsov providing a pulse, or a heartbeat, if you will, adding a sense of warmth. Much like the best pizza you’ve ever had, you savour every bite, but before you know it, it’s already over, but the taste lingers for a long while and you’re filled with a sense of serenity. It’s almost impossible to imagine what the next step for this band will be. All I know is that I’m here for it, wholeheartedly.