February 13, 2013

Velour 100 and the Shoegaze Movement

While working on yet-to-be-published blog post, I uploaded the Velour 100 song "Dolphin Grey" to YouTube. There is very little about this terrific band online, and they didn't last very long. Even in their short existence of two LPs and two EPs multi-instrumentalist Trey Many used  six different lead vocalists: Amon Krist (daughter of Jan), Tess Wiley (significant solo career and former guitarist for Sixpence None the Richer), Sydney Rentz (Morella's Forest), Karen Oliver (His Name is Alive), Alicia Luma, and finally Rosie Thomas.



Uploading this track to YouTube led me to discover a great article about the shoegaze movement, which couldn't have been published at a more opportune (and probably intentional) time with My Bloody Valentine releasing their first album since 1991. You can read the article by Chuck Hicks here, but here is the part about Velour 100:


While Slowdive was relinquishing the gazing muse, another obscure stateside band was taking it up.  Trey Many (pr. “may’-nee”), the drummer for Warren Defever’s His Name is Alive, was developing a side project at Eastern Michigan University.   Together with art student Amon Krist (daughter of folk singer Jan Krist) he formed Velour 100 and signed with Seattle’s alternative label, Tooth & Nail.

Velour 100′s first full-length recording was Fall Sounds (1996) with Many on all instruments and Krist on lead vocals (and occasional acoustic guitar).  Right away the listener finds the music here focused and thematically linked — a concept album based on the pair’s experiences of loss and renewal informed by their Christian faith.  The same dense, hypnotic atmospherics present with Slowdive are found here; but Many keeps the listening interesting with changes and unusual time signatures.  ”Dub Space” is a sparkling eight and half minute tone poem that could have emerged from the waterfall at the end of “Close to the Edge.”  The strongest track on the album — and, in my view, among the best three and a half minutes of the ’90s — is “Flourish”:

Velour 100 never received a bad critical review.  As Krist departed to complete her studies and launch a teaching career, the duo’s first demo recording was re-recorded and released as Songs From the Rainwater EP to high praise.  Many produced one more LP, Of Color Bright (1997) that featured three female lead vocalists, including ex-Sixpence None the Richer guitarist Tess Wiley.  Wiley co-wrote “Dolphin Grey,” which showcases her distinctive alto against a splash of jangling guitars:

Many recorded a final four-song EP, For An Open Sky (1999), with soon-to-breakout vocalist Rosie Thomas.  He now lends his formidable production skills to projects for other bands.

Finally, I'll add that Velour 100 resurfaced in another form  as Half-Life Souvenir, which toured briefly but never released any music.

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