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Solanas - The Distance Within Our Bodies album art

The Distance Within Our Bodies

17 July 2015 – Self-released

01. Idyll of Identity
02. Stay Silver
03. Home
04. Hangnail
05. Pink Lakes
06. Coping
07. Bury Me
08. Out For Honesty
09. What We Were/What We Are/What We Want To Be

Screamo is a bit like James Bond: not only does its reputation precede it, but even though we throw that same label on a bunch of things we still end up with results as varied as Daniel Craig and Sean Connery, or Circle Takes The Square and La Dispute.

Just as we’ve come to expect weird names within the Bond universe, the same applies to screamo, with Oddjob and Octopussy being mirrored in things like Pianos Become The Teeth. The quality and style varies wildly as well; for every Casino Royale we have Tomorrow Never Dies and for every ridiculous car-flipping-rocket-launcher scene we have Mads Mikkelsen beating Daniel Craig’s testicles with a rope.

What does this have to do with Solanas’ new album The Distance Within Our Bodies? A lot, as it turns out (except perhaps the testicle torture, but who knows these days?).

Labelling an album ‘screamo’ will likely weed out a fair few people from the off, but to be honest if they’re turned off by the genre they weren’t likely fans in the first place. The label, however, doesn’t really cover what to expect in its entirety; this is not a chaotic, mathy affair like CTTS; nor is it a twinkly, talky/shouty one like La Dispute or Hotel Books. If we look past the vocals, The Distance Within Our Bodies could have been a shoegaze album, with reverb-covered clean guitars and splashy cymbals – but who honestly looks past the vocals on anything outside the realm of death metal these days?

So if we take the vocals of Ollie and drummer Elliot head, on we are greeted with anguished screams that, while fairly typical for the style, feel genuine and emotional. Half-buried in the mix, they’re nevertheless audible enough to listen to the lyrics, but far back enough to give you the feeling that they have to fight the music for attention, which aids in solidifying the bleak picture the lyrics paint.

At first the shoegaze-y guitars seemed like an odd choice, and it takes a while for that oddness to even itself out – but once it does, you won’t want it any other way. The lack of crunchy distortion is particularly unique amongst recent screamo releases, and due to the close relationship between the most recent waves of shoegaze and black metal, it makes the most intense parts even more poignant in their desperation.

All of this is pushed even more by the fact that the album sounds like it could have been recorded live, with the whole band in a room; there’s a certain rawness without loss of clarity, a certain emotional core, and the flow is maintained throughout, leaving the record feeling more honest than any highly polished, digital production job might have rendered it.

It does come with some slight downsides – most prominently when Elliot is at his busiest behind the kit, muddling the overall sound. Stef’s bass is also hardly audible in spots, but luckily its presence is felt throughout and on the whole The Distance Within Our Bodies sounds a lot more balanced than its lyrics portray its creators as being.

The Distance Within Our Bodies is pretty unique within the screamo scene – an On Her Majesty’s Secret Service of sorts – but even if there’s an entire subculture of shoegaze-y screamo out there I’ve missed completely, it’s at the very least a good addition and/or introduction to it. It’s not likely to win you over if you aren’t already keen on the brand of emo that has trouble finding its inside voice, but if you’re searching for existential pain in musical form you could do a lot worse than Solanas’ new album.

Jón writer banner Jan 2015