Independent Record Label | Est. 2009
Wilmington, North Carolina



Saturday, June 1, 2024

Pressing Concerns: Female Gaze

[Repost from Rosy Overdrive; May 21, 2024]

Female Gaze – Tender Futures

Release date: May 17th
Record label: Fort Lowell/Totally Real
Genre: Psychedelic rock, art rock, desert rock, post-rock, jazz rock
Formats: Vinyl, cassette, digital
Pull Track: Severance

Tucson trio The Rifle debuted about a decade ago, releasing three records in six years and growing from the solo project of guitarist/vocalist Nelene DeGuzman (2014’s Rib to Rib) to a 60s-tinged guitar pop act (2017’s Anababis) to incorporating a bit of desert psychedelia into their sound (2020’s Honeyden). Honeyden would prove to be The Rifle’s last album, but they didn’t break up, exactly–DeGuzman and bassist Kevin Conklin continued on as Female Gaze, with drummer Nicky David Cobham-Morgese replacing The Rifle’s Randy Rowland. Female Gaze debuted in 2021 with the one-off garage-indie-pop single “The Joy of Missing Out”, and while there’s a shade of darkness to that song, it doesn’t prepare one for the huge leap that the trio make on Tender Futures, the trio’s debut album. Stretching five songs across thirty-two minutes, Tender Futures is an expansive, vast record, with DeGuzman and her band embodying the American southwest more than they ever have before. Inspired in part by DeGuzman’s chronic health issues that had left her in a “painful limbo”, Tender Futures does with garage rock what Itasca’s Imitation of War did with folk music–it explores the desert using empty space and towering nothingness as its language.

Tender Futures intentionally evoke haziness and disorientation and, according to the band, can be started from any song and played “on a loop”. Female Gaze choose to begin the “proper” version of the album off with the sparsest moment on the record in “Ghosts”–it’s not the most accessible moment on Tender Futures, no, but there’s a captivating quality to how it sounds, a simple guitar part echoing cavernously with only DeGuzman’s, well, ghostly vocals as accompaniment. “Ghosts” also prepares one to expect extremes throughout the album, which the next song does as well, in a different way. “Broadcast” slides into focus by introducing us to Female Gaze the three-piece rock band, with elements of psychedelia and pop in their sound. It’d be a good choice for the “single”–if it wasn’t ten minutes long, expanding and probing all the while. The middle of the record is completely instrumental, most of which is comprised of the nine-minute title track, an impressive song that slouches towards post-rock and even a bit of jazz-rock (Conklin’s bass gets a nice showcase here), while the echoing piano of “In the Mezzanine” serves as a three-minute coda. By this point, the disorientation is at a high, as we’re feeling lost out in no-man’s land somewhere–but the last song on Tender Futures is its clearest olive branch. “Severance” is not a departure from the rest of the album, but it’s where everything snaps into focus, as the trio set their sights on fluttering guitar pop for six minutes. Ending with the triumphant is Tender Futures on easy mode, though–let’s see how quickly we get lost if we start with the title track… (Bandcamp link)