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Kallai - Always/Never (self-released)

30 March 2024

We get used to the shoegaze sound following certain sonic lines – song structures built from ambient drifts or all-encompassing noise walls, less a sound than a sensation, something more to be experienced than merely heard. And, Kallai does follow many of those genre-defining approaches, certainly on this new release “Always/Never.”

But they also move further into other associated realms. There is a solidity and abrasiveness that pushes them slightly towards, if not an industrial soundscape, then certainly a barbed alt-rock one. The riff that threads its way through this sonic affair is also more solid and defined than most, again something that gives them a rock edge to balance the more ambient moments that form the more understated response to that sonorous sonic call.

And whilst the band does tip its hat and glance longingly over its shoulder at many of the shoegaze bands of the golden age, not least the seminal sound of My Bloody Valentine, they also look to the future, plotting a course perhaps to a return to such days. “Always/Never” is the sound of a band less concerned with where the genre has been and more fixated on the road ahead.

Shoegaze has a strange saving grace. It is never a style that goes out of fashion because it was never really in fashion. It was too underground, too niche, too unapproachable for many, and inaccessible to those with more mainstream tastes. It was always discerning music for discerning people.

Kallai are perhaps the seeds that will resow the scene and set in motion the blossoming of a whole new alternative soundscape, not just an alternative but an alternative to the alternative scene. (After all, actually, how alt is alt-rock any more?)