Dubbed as the future of dream-pop, Katie Leigh-Lancaster spotlights Gengahr ahead of their sophomore album
Blurring kaleidoscopic melodies with haunting falsetto, Gengahr’s debut album, A Dream Outside, marked one of 2015’s most intoxicating dream-pop ventures. The North London quartet, consisting of vocalist/guitarist Felix Bushe, bassist Hugh Schulte, guitarist John Victor and drummer Danny Ward, signed to Transgressive in 2014, joining indie giants Foals and Two Door Cinema Club. Four years on, the band’s much-anticipated second offering, Where Wildness Grows (coming out 9 March) promises to push the boundaries of psych-pop further than ever before.
In the wake of Deerhunter’s Fading Frontier and the approaching shadow of Tame Impala’s Currents, the success of Gengahr’s debut, A Dream Outside, is as much a product of 2015’s thirst for psychedelia as it is an architect of the genre’s future. Yet, Gengahr have never been a band intent on blending in with the scene. Their debut reconciles infectious pop hooks with the melancholia of shoegaze, layered beneath Felix Bushe’s unique falsetto whisper.
Throughout the album, the band test the borders of genre, oscillating between shadowy guitar riffs on ‘Powder’ and ‘Where I Lie’, and soft acoustic beats on radio-friendly hit ‘She’s A Witch’. Met with critical acclaim, Gengahr’s debut spawned excitement within the industry from the likes of Wolf Alice and George Ezra, and secured them support-act slots for Alt-J and labelmates Dry The River.
If A Dream Outside is a comfortable exploration of dream-pop, then the fluidity of Where Wildness Grows marks a transition into truly experimental Gengahr era. ‘Carrion’, debuted last September, is an atmospheric lead single; Bushe’s once-gentle vocals snarl over cinematic melodies with newfound thunder. The tangling opening guitars, knotting up between erratic pauses, anticipate a metamorphosis into a sharper, matured tempo. John Victor’s guitar solo in the bridge, spurred on by Danny Ward’s pounding drums, produces the heaviest moment in Gengahr’s discography, veering on rockier territory than their debut.
In conversation about ‘The Line of Best Fit’, Bushe described the track as having been ‘born in part out of frustration, the song crashes on, an embodiment of the resilience we’ve found essential in getting to where we find ourselves now’. ‘Mallory’, the band’s follow-up single, plays on poppier conventions, shifting between playfully clunky verses and glossy chorus riffs. The band’s latest single, ‘Before Sunrise’, flaunts an unusual sunniness too, swapping pensive sounds for breezy, sun-soaked riffs. The direction of the remaining Where Wildness Grows tracks is left much to the imagination, playing further into the glorious mystery of the new Gengahr era.
The whimsical appeal of Gengahr is echoed in their album artwork, painted by bassist Hugh Schulte. A Dream Outside’s striking cover art, which depicts a whirling of blue-toned circles towards a bursting pink centre, has since become iconic. Following the success of the ‘Gengahr and Friends’ exhibition at Hackney’s A-Side B-Side gallery in 2015, which showcased Schulte’s artwork alongside that of Alt-J’s Thom Green, Bombay Bicycle Club’s Ed Nash and Slaves’ Laurie Vincent, a follow-up exhibition is scheduled for 15-20 March 2018. Schulte’s Where Wildness Grows-era artwork is, like Bushe’s vocals, a shadowy beast, adopting a darker palette and more nature-based influences.
Following the release of Where Wildness Grows on 9 March via Transgressive records, Gengahr are set to embark on their European tour, with a string of pre-festival UK dates kicking off in Newcastle’s Think Tank in April, and are returning to Birmingham’s Hare & Hounds for the first time since their headline slot at All Years Leaving festival. Tickets are still available to catch the band on 26 April and can be found here.