Original art by Logan Rackear
Written and Compiled by Maurice Marion
Reverb is the new black. Sonic clarity is passé. Welcome to the Generation of the Terminally Chill, the Meh-lennials, where curated ambience is our anthem (and 'verb rock its flagship). Listen to any algorithmically generated "2010s indie rock" playlist, and you'll run into it eventually: the silky, über-compressed vocals, the spacious ever-present background hum, the sonic debris of twenty-seconds-old riffs, the cool caress of a blurry guitar, not so much an instrument as a subtle wash of color... or wait, is it a synth? It sounds so far away I can't even tell anymore.
It's gorgeous. It's lush. Its colorful. For better or worse, this "reverb rock" is relaxing. Detractors might argue that the aesthetic is anti-caring, anti-progressive, representative of a white capitalist yuppie malaise, a blissfully apathetic anesthetic. Whether that critique is valid or not — the answer likely varies from band to band — we can definitely point to 'verb rock's origins. Its closest contemporary cousin seems to be the glo-fi electronica of the late 2000s, LA acts like Washed Out, Baths, and Toro Y Moi, but tracing this lineage back to its central origin, one finds that the true godfathers of today's 'verb rock are the shoegazers of the nineties: Slowdive, MBV, Ride, Lush, whose walls of sound were themselves inspired by Phil Spector and his Wrecking Crew. The shoegazers were also some of the first to utilize Brian Eno's ambient innovations aggressively, making ambience dynamic, making ambience cool. Though 'verb and shoegaze employ different weapons of choice (one a reverb pedal, the other a fuzz), at their core both genres share the same end-goal: to overwhelm you with sound until you fall into a joyful hypnosis.