Album review: The Virgance – Paradigm 3

The Virgance Paradigm 3

Nathan Smith, better known as UK-based shoegaze/dreampop/noiserock artist The Virgance, has just dropped a new album. Melissa Barrass gives it a listen: 

There is such a futuristic sacredness about the production of Paradigm 3 by The Virgance. Not one audible word is spoken or sung on this album, which sits pretty far on one end of the Shoegaze spectrum. And although Paradigm 3 may close doors for some Shoegazers (particularly those whom enjoy a heavier sound and lyrics), the breeze of ambient shoegaze is peacefully entering through the windows instead, engaging a whole new crowd of listeners.

The tracks on Paradigm 3 feature soft whispery vocals of which some belong to Shauna McLarnon of highly rotated Primal Radio frequent, Ummagma. McLarnon’s voice borrows the angelic qualities of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, which comfortably sit back with Nathan’s progressive experimental soundscapes, which overall remind me of Sydney’s Decoder Ring, especially through the guitar riffs.

Sequester jumps into a smashing percussion by the three-minute mark, which is a standout moment on the album with its echoed drums and cymbals, and muffled tinkerings, all deeply layered to form one of Paradigm 3’s most energetic tracks.

Moonolog features this catchy beat that only stands out due to the breakdown featuring a short period in what sounds like a vibraphone-type instrument giving the song a hint of retro 60’s elevator. The track is quite percussion-heavy throughout with the rolling thumps of the kick and snare drums, and closing with the swirling reverbs that layer and loop into one another like a fine weave.

If you are a fan of Enya’s more instrumental contributions, you will surely love Paradigm 3, and Down the River is sure to please with its ethereal and relaxing echoed vocals layered upon one another and dreamy maximum reverb. The track also begins and (lightly) ends with the atmospheric audio of a river-stream and birdcalls.

But the most beautifully haunting track for me is short and sweet Dissipate, which kicks off with a distorted high pitch note that I can only describe as a divine church-like sound, and would smoothly accompany a Jonathan Glazer film (even Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes to mind).

I keep asking myself what word I think of first when I hear this music. ‘Journey’ always comes first to mind, no matter which way I look at it. Perhaps it’s the soft angelic fragility that emphasises the beauty of a journey, that quest to find ultimate peace or even purity? But if Slowdive, Dead Mellotron, Enya and Decoder Ring mean anything to you, you will easily find a place for Nathan Smith’s moniker The Virgance in your fantastic library of experimental, shoegaze and ambient music.

You can buy the album on Bandcamp.

melissa barrass


Review by Melissa Barrass.