Scattersun is Fax Gang and Parannoul’s Joint Effort to End Genre As We Know It

The bitcrushing hip-hop collective virtually teamed up with the anonymous Korean post-rock legend to imagine a world without genre limits.

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Scattersun is Fax Gang and Parannoul’s Joint Effort to End Genre As We Know It

If you didn’t know that there’s a shoegaze resurgence going on, I’m not sure where you’ve been. It’s not the first time that contemporary artists have looked back at the scene that celebrates itself, but over the better part of a decade, a shoegaze renaissance has emerged and shows little sign of stopping. What’s confusing to genre purists who worship the original breakthroughs of my bloody valentine, Ride and Slowdive is just how many young people tag their music as shoegaze despite it being something else, whether it’s dreampop (classic mix-up), post-rock or something else entirely with some immersive guitar work that manifests. When it’s possible to get that sound out of a computerized guitar, it’s getting more and more plausible, and appealing, to harness that shoegaze sound for any number of projects. Generation Z knows this better than anyone else.

While the stickler definition of shoegaze is clear on process and sound, Gen Z’s approach to the storied genre is less about precise reproduction and more about modal transference. How do you intensify the tools of shoegaze with electronics or while rapping or in service of mounting tension towards some kind of beautiful release? What are the effects that shoegaze helps realize? Across their discographies, transnational alt-hip-hop collective Fax Gang and anonymous bedroom rocker Parannoul have peppered shoegaze in, selectively choosing it as a centerpiece but mostly opting to make alterations that render shoegaze a tool for building tension and confronting release in a genre-agnostic context. It works: Parannoul, especially, has a massive cult following that’s made him a key figure in a resurgent Korean rock scene, and Fax Gang has pushed cloud rap stylings to new, exhilarating places on a variety of releases that the creators pen over instant messaging.

In an exciting power move, Fax Gang and Parannoul have come together for an album, Scattersun, that further demonstrates why asking what shoegaze “is” in this decade is a useless question; instead, we should ask what shoegaze can do in a world where genre boundaries aren’t the constraints they once were. “Lullaby for a Memory” exemplifies Fax Gang and Parannoul’s eagerness to dismantle limitations. Over a liquid drum and bass foundation, Auto-Tuned vocals launch from understated to bold while competing with melodic cacophony. Peaceful and contemplative live right alongside boisterous and adversarial; that tension is the sight of the finest breakthroughs. Album opener “Quiet” is similarly cinematic, entering gently with mounting tension, piano, guitar and panoply of alternating sounds, some fuzzy, some twinkly. After introducing Scattersun, the track bursts open with crashing percussion and soaring, warbling vocals. It’s a precision mess, commanding attention with contradictory elements and impressive stature rather than flashiness.

As if the power of Fax Gang and Parannoul together aren’t enough, they call upon the talents of collaborators in their network. The pummeling “Wrong Signal” features Mudd the Student, the eclectic, Seoul-based rapper and TV contestant, and the dreamy coaster “Ascension” features the Rio Grande Valley-based artist agatka. “Ascension” starts with all the hallmarks of shoegaze: an avalanche of guitars, vocals barely understood but easily sensed, percussion that keeps everything tethered to reality. Eventually, the track evaporates, leaving a cloud of noise that bursts like a psychedelic sonic boom to close. “Double Bind” is as compelling as it is deep fried, bitcrushed into smithereens as flashes of rock and electropop crawl out of the rubble and reform into something brilliantly smooth over toe-tapping two step.

Scattersun peaks on its monster 10-minute title track, itself split into several movements. The last movement is its loudest and crunchiest, a technicolor display so pyrotechnic you can feel it in your chest. On an album frequently touching on heightened emotion and a perpetual sense of otherness, “Scattersun” is the most crystalline: “You’re supposed to bounce back when you fall down/I could never do that, only call out/If you looked into my soul you’d be appalled now/Rotten to the core, to the core, to the core yeah.” Unwilling to conclude on those terms, “Circular Motion” offers some more wisdom and euphoric combustion. It’s slightly twitchy but overall tranquil in the beginning, hinting at something bigger coming: one of the finest, most glitched displays of electronic propulsion seen on any Fax Gang or Parannoul project.

Scattersun bumps between extremes: There are songs that feel like they’d be perfectly at home on a Fax Gang release or a Parannoul album. Importantly, though, the majority of these songs sound like a Frankenstein of the two, evidence of how shoegaze can be used as a modality to link electronica, hip-hop and alternative rock into something sensational. Both artists play with their own distinctive maximalism on their projects, but on Scattersun, they share a common language in extremity. Their stylistic trademarks work well in tandem. They also brilliantly kept the album in-house, opting to compose, mix and master it DIY style.

Both Fax Gang and Parannoul have used their projects to share their own misgivings with coming of age and building a life, and on Scattersun, they no longer feel like artists simply speaking to an audience; they feel like hallowed peers speaking to each other and letting us in on the one-of-a-kind conversation. It feels like a new dawn, an opportunity for something bigger than even today’s rock-electronic synthesis projects have hinted at. Scattersun is the transnational sign of a broader, rock-informed hip-hop and hip-hop-informed electro-rock horizon, a world where genre is not a constraint but one of several machines meant to run simultaneously. The future doesn’t have time for just one sound, so may Scattersun serve as an inspiration for whatever daring eclecticism is yet to come.

Devon Chodzin is a Philadelphia-based critic and urban planner with bylines at Aquarium Drunkard, Stereogum, Bandcamp Daily and more. He lives on Twitter @bigugly.

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