Chicago-based quintet Videotape have been around in one form or another since 2009, so it has taken them a while to finally release their debut album, entitled This Is Disconnect. Sometimes, taking such a prolonged period of time to record an album is the result of creative differences, but in Videotape’s case, it was just due to logistics. The band started life when AJ Cesena began sending tracks by email to Sophie Leigh for her to add vocals to.
Leigh was living in Australia at the time – where she continued to write and record with Cesena – but eventually returned to Chicago in late 2009. It was then that the band began to take its final shape. Ian McDuffle (lead guitar) and Sarah Sterling (drums) joined the set up and the four-piece played their first show in 2010. Jenna Caravello (bass) completed the band in 2012 and the full set up went into the studio to record their first full-length LP.
So, what about the end product? Well, This Is disconnect is by no means a groundbreaking album from Videotape, but it is a confident debut album from a band who appear to have a very clear direction. It is an atmospheric album, one that revels in layers of guitars and has been described by some to be dream pop or shoegaze. In a sense, those labels are fitting for Videotape’s debut, but then again they don’t quite get across the gothic elements of their sound.
The album opens with the perfectly decent Static. The song sets down what to expect sound-wise from This Is Disconnect early on, but it is a strange choice to kick off the album with considering it falls sort of two minutes and lacks any real punch. No One, on the other hand, is a much better track – emphasising just how much of a misstep it was to start with Static. The sprawling and fuzzy guitars give the song real character and Leigh’s vocals are less refined and therefore more in line with the final result.
Between Me & You is better again. It is a beautifully paced song that opens with overlapping acoustic and electric guitars, before a thumping beat rolls in and punctuates Leigh’s dreamy vocals. Another highlight is the acoustic track Walking In Circles, a song demonstrating that sometimes less is better. It revolves centrally around the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar and a ghostly wailing, before building towards a haunting and eerie conclusion.
In fact, This Is Disconnect is certainly not an album to listen to before bedtime if you’re the sort of person who is afraid of being visited by guests of a ghoulish kind. Take The Creeps, where Leigh sings sinisterly over a distorted, chugging guitar riff “Your shadow reaches up from below”. There is no doubt that the song creates a feeling of unease, but it does so without the subtlety of Walking In Circles. Then there’s the completely pointless Form, which is virtually four minutes of nothing but an unclear, distant vocal and two minutes of fuzzy guitar work.
Videotape’s debut album is a hard one to work out in many ways. It verges on being the perfect soundtrack to some sort of indie horror film at times, while other moments sound quite peaceful and verge on the dream pop genre that some critics have already assigned it. Overall, it is a coherent debut album that manages to create a sense of paranoia through heavily distorted guitars and spooky, high-pitched wailing. However, beyond that, it is not particularly remarkable. Nevertheless, keep an eye out for Videotape, because the potential is there.