by Jason Boucher
In the annals of shoegaze history, Chapterhouse’s debut album, ‘Whirlpool’ (Dedicated Records), holds a hallowed place. Bursting onto the scene in 1991, this album encapsulates the essence of the genre with its dense sonic textures and dreamy and mystic soundscapes. A seminal work, ‘Whirlpool’ not only helped define the shoegaze movement but continues to inspire artists and enthusiasts alike some 32 years later.
‘Whirlpool’ is an auditory voyage through a kaleidoscope of sound. Tracks like “Breather” and “Pearl” are emblematic of Chapterhouse’s signature sound, featuring layers of shimmering guitars, ethereal vocals, and a wall of sound that quickly envelops the listener. The album’s intricate production was actually self-produced with assistance from Ralph Jezzard (producer of EMF’s Unbelievable), Stephen Hague (producer of Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order, and Public Image Limited), and Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins). By self-producing the record, it allowed for a sonic immersion that transcends mere listening; it’s an experience, an emotional odyssey.
What sets ‘Whirlpool’ apart is its ability to evoke a range of emotions, from the hazy nostalgia of “Falling Down” to the introspective yearning in “April.” The album’s lyrical themes touch upon love, longing, and introspection, all underpinned by a sense of wistfulness. In the pantheon of shoegaze, ‘Whirlpool’ stands out as a testament to Chapterhouse’s prowess in crafting intricate, dreamlike soundscapes that continue to captivate listeners and inspire a new generation of dream pop and shoegaze aficionados.
What’s my favorite track? It’s “Pearl,” of course. I nearly played it on every radio show I hosted during my college years. It’s also one of my favorite songs of all time. I do regret that I’ve never seen them perform live, but I don’t regret purchasing this album in London for 12 pounds many moons ago.