On first spin, you easily may mistake In Solarium
for an unearthed collection of B-sides by Kevin Shields. The similarities between Pia Fraus and Shields' ground-breaking My Bloody Valentine are numerous, and as such, listeners will most likely have one of two reactions to this album of shoegazer perfection: they'll either declare it a rip-off or they'll jump for joy. Personally, I'm feeling a strong sense of the latter.
Hailing from Estonia (a land not widely acknowledged as an indie music mecca), Pia Fraus certainly offers a hint or two about their European origins (most notably in the mildly accented vocals), but by and large In Solarium is borderless fare, presented in global-friendly English and largely devoid of cultural lessons.
Bathed in dreamy haze, the songs on In Solarium serve as a transporter to a peaceful, albeit nearly mind-numbing state. Kristel Loide's vocals are at once deep, breathy and ethereal, providing the perfect match for Pia Fraus' take on dreamy noise-pop. On almost every track, Loide's vocals are combined with equally stunning harmonies and layered between atmospheric keyboard tinkerings and reverb-heavy guitars. The opening track, "400 & 57" (which at moments reminds me of The Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town"), provides a perfect example of what to expect from the rest of the album. A steady guitar refrain serves as the base element, while layer upon layer of voices and other instrumentation are blended seamlessly together, creating a delicate and classic shoegazer-styled arrangement.
While In Solarium may not provide a unique approach to the sound My Bloody Valentine brought to the music-loving world's attention, or even offer much of an updated take on the genre, the album succeeds because Pia Fraus' music is enrapturing and unmistakably beautiful. While many bands have tried (often in vain) to recapture Shields' trademark aesthetic, Pia Fraus has done nothing short of mastering it, while never once sounding as if it were a forced study in shoegaze. They've done this so well, in fact, that you would think that they were one of the innovators of the style rather than relative newcomers. If you're a hardcore Loveless junkie, or invariably gravitate to Slowdive or Mojave 3 CDs, Pia Fraus' first stateside release should be added to your rotation ASAP. From start to finish, it's an engaging, more than satisfying listen. Look for the white noise of "No Need For Sanity" and "Octobergirl" in particular to turn In Solarium into your latest favorite album.