Review: La Casa Al Mare – ‘This Astro’

by Jake Kussmaul

A band whose impact is felt less than a year after forming is quite admirable. Having their debut EP receive glowing reception a mere month after its release is even more astounding. Said EP is This Astro by Italian shoegaze contemporaries, La Casa Al Mare. This Rome-based trio creates a billowy and incredibly compelling soundscape. The fluidity of their musicianship makes the EP seem like culminated effort. If anything, though, it is simply a new milestone in their career.

The first track, “I Don’t Want To,” really surprised me. Before any thoughts came to mind, I found myself continually mesmerized beyond control. While the band exudes the spirit of My Bloody Valentine, they do not flaunt it pretentiously. It’s like a friend humbly longing to share the music they love with the world. Throughout the track, the obscured, harmonized vocals and poignant guitars produce a lulling effect. The implied chorus melody features a faint picking guitar, which further enhances this quality. What follows is a metallic, warbling variation of the intro, each strum piercing into my soul. “Sunflowers” builds further upon the wall of noise, throwing in extra distortion and a splash of happiness. Its impact on my mind was quite similar to heavy metal; I was able to let loose and push aside life’s tribulations, even if momentarily. The constantly changing bass keeps the track interesting as if to resemble the growth of a flower. By the time the chorus hits, you know the track has reached full bloom, adding an extra layer of thickness and high-pitched reverberated leads to top it off.  “M”, the third track, feels like coming off a high, with its somewhat cumbersome drums and dragging pace. But even with that in mind, its rhythm shows the most variety with each section, making for a more stimulating listening experience.  Its placement in relation to the rest of the EP provides a temporary moment to reflect, much like a listener would before switching sides on a vinyl record.

The next three songs—“side two,” in theory—tone down the Loveless sensibilities for a more accessible sound. In “At All”, Verlaines-inspired upbeat jangle pop meets punk rock. It has an upbeat 4-track sensibility, taking me back to the days when garage recordings were distributed among friends. Just hearing the speed and lightheartedness of the chords make me want to jam alongside the band. “Tonight or Never” is tearjerker, featuring some of the most beautiful guitar work. To call it bittersweet is an understatement. The tremolo guitars now serve as a backdrop to accentuate the acoustics, both playing the same chord progression. The chorus melody could initially be characterized as either haunting or healing, depending on the listener’s perspective. When played the second time, a bass line provides harmonious accompaniment.  “CD Girl” is the closer on the EP, and sounds like another surefire indie hit. I appreciated how it further placed less emphasis on noise, and more on instrumentation. The addition of ethereal synth pads and simple, sweet keyboard accompaniment is substantial in giving the track its identity. On the second verse, a Theremin serves as the finishing touch in bringing the space rock influence full circle. By the end of the track, I am fully satisfied.

Overall, I enjoyed This Astro very much, and have given it heavy rotation on my iPod. Though essentially a compilation of previously released singles, the way it is sequenced feels seamless and natural. I feel like if all the songs were played acoustically with the effects bypassed, it would really take the listening experience to a whole other level. La Casa Al Mare – when you get to reading this review, consider my idea!