Swedish duo Niso and Henke have chosen eleventhfloorrecords as both their group name and the title for their inaugural album. The one-time high school friends moved in together upon moving to Malmo in 2000 to attend college, and their student apartment was—where else?—on the eleventh floor. Such close contact inevitably resulted in their influencing one another's musical tastes and that shared sensibility now finds its release in the form of a fifty-six-minute collection of shoegaze songcraft. Produced by Jatun's Scott Worley, the group's material manages to be both raw and, of course, loud yet at the same time fundamentally melodic and thus easy to latch onto.
“My Ultimate Friend” begins the recording on a rapturous wave of widescreen shoegaze, the music pitched at such an epic level, the vocals end up deeply buried within the mix. In “Out Into the Sun,” an uplifting synthesizer theme and staccato percussion patterns combine to create a prototypically thunderous sound. Wailing guitars, synthesizers, and programmed beats are primary sonic elements, but the focus is more on a total, gauzy sound mass than individual instruments. An occasional instrumental interlude appears, such as “Whaleborg,” but the recording is largely composed of vocal-based anthems. Though some of the album's thirteen songs dial down the intensity level a notch or two (e.g., “Five Days”), even the most restrained eleventhfloorrecords song sounds epic when compared to another recording. That's par for the course where shoegaze is concerned, of course. And consistent with the genre, vocals are often positioned within the mix rather than at the forefront and roughened up with some degree of distortion to make them sound raw and hollowed-out.
Listeners with an appetite for shoegaze—chillwave, if you prefer—could find themselves easily seduced by eleventhfloorrecords' sound, especially when ultra-melodic fare such as “Jassafraine” and “Surrounded” is included. In these cases, the group's swooning material and chiming keyboards soar gently without any compromise to the group's intense attack. The duo's music hums with a crushing fervour and intensity that situates it firmly within the long-standing shoegaze tradition. In terms of how good a match eleventhfloorrecords is for n5MD's emotional electronica style, the group's luscious, heavily synthetic wall-of-sound obviously gravitates more towards the pop side of the equation rather than the experimental electronica heard on other n5MD releases.