Dead Horse One

The West is the Best

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Since forming in 2011, French combo Dead Horse One have amassed a tidy catalog of LPs, EPs, and scattered compilation appearances, all bearing a pretty consistent merging of shoegaze and dream pop disciplines. Hailing from the southern French city of Valence, the quartet is clearly rooted in the school of '90s forebears like My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, and Ride. In fact, Ride frontman Mark Gardener was an early champion of the band and produced their 2014 debut. Dead Horse One also developed a relationship with American producer John Loring, of the California shoegaze band, Fleeting Joys. Loring, whose hazy stamp was evident on 2016's Season of Mist, returns to the producer's chair on the group's third full-length, The West Is the Best. A familiar outgrowth of their two previous albums, Dead Horse One know their way around a wistful, melancholic melody and ably provide the evocative framework of their chosen genres. The hushed vocals shared by bassist Ludovic Naud and guitarist Olivier Debart are generally buried deep into the mix of textural guitar squalls and keyboards that traverse the entire album. The influence of mid-'80s Echo & the Bunnymen and the Cure can be heard, particularly on the mercurial "Saudade," assisted by guest vocalist Rorika Loring, wife and bandmate of producer John. Another highlight, "Gaze," is imbued with a gentle jangle pop feel and provides a respite from the heavy slam of distorted guitars that covers much of the set. There's enough tonal variance within the songs to provide some welcome dynamics, but overall, Dead Horse One feel rather enmeshed in the tried-and-true style of "classic shoegaze," sticking pretty firmly to its rules without causing much of a fuss.

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