Bay Area’s local distortion

San Francisco shoegazers Young Prisms make a lot of noise with but don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

Raghav Mehta

If it werenâÄôt for Irish visionary Kevin ShieldsâÄô unyielding diligence in the production of âÄúLoveless,âÄù the fine art of psychedelic rock mightâÄôve been forever lost to the hippie generation. In all its droning, shoegazing brilliance, My Bloody ValentineâÄôs now-legendary 1991 release made one thing certain: Acid-induced rock âÄônâÄô roll did not die with the âÄô60s flower children.

Today, in the aftermath of the oughtsâÄô indie explosion, shoegaze (or nu-gaze if you want to be a snob about it) has seen a bit of a revival. And there are few acts that replicate it with the same consistency as the California Bay AreaâÄôs Young Prisms.

Fronted by vocalist Stefanie Hodapp and songwriter and bassist Giovanni Betteo, the West Coast quintet rose to fame in San Francisco over the last two years. But their success hasnâÄôt ended with Bay Area stardom.

Betteo and his band are in the midst of a nationwide tour opening for Swedish dream-pop linchpins Radio Dept. Like most promising musicians at his stage, he avoids being too indulgent when speaking over the phone about his bandâÄôs success.

The Bay AreaâÄôs thriving music scene served as a promising stomping ground for the group in their formative years, Betteo said.

âÄúI donâÄôt know if it would be fair saying we stood out,âÄù Betteo said. âÄúThereâÄôs a lot of great music [in the Bay Area], and itâÄôs about being accessible and also trying to be something different than what else is going on.âÄù

On their debut LP âÄúFriends for Now,âÄù Young Prisms deliver a psychedelic haze of swirling, wall-of-sound guitars that bury HodappâÄôs obscured vocals. Sometimes itâÄôs sunny and other times itâÄôs just plain hypnotic. The album clocks in at just under 40 minutes, and the group doesnâÄôt make much of an effort to turn down the volume throughout the course of it.

âÄú[The songs] were written with more of a drone concept, like hypnotic and repeated rhythms, but with spiral of sound sucking you in,âÄù Betteo said. âÄúItâÄôs something thatâÄôs good to do drugs to.âÄù

In each song HoddapâÄôs voice drags languorously, drowning under a flood of reverb-laden distortion. There are moments where the albumâÄôs murky fuzz channels DeerhunterâÄôs âÄúCryptograms,âÄù but Young Prisms abandon melody in favor of textures and volume, resulting in something that, by the end, just feels dull.

  Even if Young PrismâÄôs debut doesnâÄôt do anything to challenge the shoegaze aesthetic laid down decades before by the genreâÄôs founding fathers, they seem to have an uncanny penchant for making sense out of a lot of noise. ItâÄôs a formula thatâÄôs not exactly easy to master. So the talent is there; letâÄôs just see if theyâÄôll be a little more daring next time around.