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Shoegazing started out as a guitar-based genre, seeming to require layer atop opaque layer of gauzy guitar feedback in order to achieve its swoon-inducing combination of pop hooks and sonic disorientation. Then M83 came along early in the last decade and showed that the same vertiginous effect could be achieved with glistening sheets of keyboards as with shrieking guitars, and the shoegazing/dream-pop genre got a fresh second wind as a result.
Stockholm’s Maria Lindén definitely attended the M83 school of dream-pop, and her band I Break Horses (name courtesy of a Smog song) puts what she learned to good use. “Winter Beats” begins with a shimmering synthesizer pattern, then Lindén slowly piles layers of droning synths, guitars and her own vocals atop it until the entire song breaks into a climactic gallop during which the original synthesizer pattern seems to morph into a broken funhouse mirror version of itself.
Lyrically, Lindén warns of emotional shutdown as a relationship begins to cool. “Don’t let that cold blood freeze” she sings, invoking the winter beats of the title – that time when the warmth of affection dies out, leaving behind only “frozen love.” The music she builds around her words has a sort of sad, glacial majesty that ultimately turns frenzied, as her struggle against the winter beats becomes more passionate. Lindén isn’t going to let love turn cold without a fight in this song.
While the icy keyboards of “Winter Beats” seem to operate with a detached cool, Lindén reveals a warm heart at the song’s core. The wave of keyboard based shoegazing bands kicked off by M83 may at times feel a little less organic than the older wave of guitar-based ‘gazers, but I Break Horses proves that they can be every bit as human.
You can check out “Winter Beats” and eight other tracks on I Break Horses’ just-released LP, Hearts.
Click here to listen to Hearts on Spotify.