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Serena-Maneesh – S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor

Even within the shoegazing fraternity Serena-Maneesh are outsiders. Their loud-louder-distortive-drone ethos is a world away from the pretty-but-boot-licking banality of, say, Engineers . Perhaps therefore in search of solidarity, the band have adopted binding punctuation since their last outing, hugging both strands of the brother-sister band together.

It hasn’t made Serena-Maneesh tighter as the seven-minute opener testifies, nor has it made them more inwardly esoteric. In fact, relatively speaking, Abyss In B Minor is rather playful and varied. The band’s otherworldly melodies are nevertheless still present and they mostly remain smothered in discordant monoliths of distortion.

Sufjan Stevens again adds occasional brushstrokes to the busy canvas, though the hard-of-hearing may struggle to capture his elusive flute on the imposing “Honeyjinx” and elsewhere his ephemeral piano. Thanks to the album having being recorded in a cave on the outskirts of Serena Maneesh’s native Oslo his effects seem to merely whisper and echo in the mix.

The opener “Ayisha Abyss” is altogether more definite, swishing and then careering into being, musically bombarding XTRMNTR territory. Not your archetypal shoegaze, its assaulting helicopter beats are offset with woodblock percussion and pulse to a massive finale.

Elvira Nikolaisen ‘s cold vocals are more comfortingly mysterious than ever, perfect against her brother Emil ‘s solemn chimes that ring from the abyss’s unintelligible soup. The ubiquitous shoegaze spirit of My Bloody Valentine inevitably lives on, most notably on the enormous drone of “Reprobate!”.

The single “I Just Want To See Your Face” was presumably cut short in title as the full version should be “… Beaming From Ear To Ear”. It’s keen to please and even almost commercial, the industrial beats watered down to allow Elvira to shine. “Melody For Jaana” is however more in line with the catalogue to date, full of Cocteau Twins intangibility and droning accompaniment.

The “Blow Yr Brains In The Mourning Rain” duet brings to mind the recent acerbic heroics of A Place To Bury Strangers and comes tempered with some heavy psych-rock for good measure, whereas “D.I.W.S.W.T.T.D” has some nauseous fluidity to its danceable, decidedly hybrid beats and it duly ebbs and flows against some thunderous industrionics and ethereal vocals.

Abyss in B Minor is the sound of Serena-Maneesh coming in from the cold. They want to be met with open arms and offer little flourishes of progression and accessibility by way of compromise. And for the most part it suits them well, their melt-water melodies buoyant on a murky sea.

S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor is out now on 4AD