I want to be there by Sadness album cover
The contemporary answer to Deafheaven's Sunbather revels in melodic intrigue and blackened shoegaze textures.
Young Fenimore Lee | April 30, 2020

The genre of blackgaze is a combination of two extreme subgenres of music: black metal and shoegaze. Black metal is typically defined by a lo-fi aesthetic, an emphasis of atmosphere, and high pitched screams as opposed to grunts. Shoegaze, a genre that primarily borrows from dream pop and noise pop, is generally defined by the atmospheric distortion and modulation effects used on the guitars, typically through guitar pedals; hence, the musicians stare down at the pedals at their feet most of the time when performing; thus, shoegaze. Shoegaze typically features clean singing, a wall of sound, and an intense wash of guitars and drums.

At the intersection of the two genres is the portmanteau “blackgaze,” and the related subgenre atmospheric black metal. It’s an extraordinary explosion of sound. Distant shouts and cries succumb to distorted tremolo-picked guitars, only to fade into softer, slower, melodically focused sections that feel vastly ethereal, like the sound is flowing through one’s fingers into a river basin. The prototypical blackgaze album of the past 10 years was Sunbather by San Francisco band Deafheaven, a wildly critically acclaimed work that has withstood the test of time - so far, anyway.

Perhaps in 10 years, people will be discussing I want to be there by Sadness instead. Sadness’s sole member is the Mexican musician Damián Antón Ojeda, who goes by Elisa on Sadness releases. Born in Mexico City, Ojeda began recording under Sadness in Oak Park, Illinois in 2014, which seems fitting, since Ojeda’s music brings to mind the same themes of loneliness and alienation as the music of midwest emo, another emotional subgenre of music that traces its origins back to the endless, sprawling suburbs of Chicago.

As someone who typically avoids music filled with d-beats and blast beats, I was entranced by the aesthetic of this album, which mixes the drums and guitars so as to hide the presence of direct violence. The production is present and intense, but palpable; the distortion feels as though I’m observing anguish from afar. Suddenly, the presence drifts away, and we’re left only with the memory of a turbid emotion turned around and spun via a centrifuge.

Loneliness perturbs us in a fundamental way. The post-COVID-19 era will reveal to ourselves just how longing affects our lives. “In the distant travels.” “I want to be with you.” “You dance like the June sky.” Though no one has access to the lyrics, since they aren’t included with the album, the subject matter of the music is made clear through the song titles. Stuck, like a question unposed, Ojeda revels in his melodic ideas for 8 minutes at a time, unable to move. It feels reflective of a betrayed and bewildered existence screaming out into the void, asking what became of the distant past.

Sadness’s 2020 release, Alluring the distant eye, includes songs from 2018 and is somewhat less successful, if still relentlessly captivating. The track names are “Shallow streams and She,” “Sky you feel,” “Cerulean,” and “Cedar wings.” I look forward to the next flight-bound album that arrives from Ojeda. His work tells us great and terrible things about ourselves and our desperation.

Sadness’s music can be purchased on Bandcamp at sadnessmusic.bandcamp.com. Please consider supporting artists through direct purchases during the current pandemic.



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Editor-in-Chief
Young Fenimore Lee
(he/him)
Pictured: Henry, his pet Jellybone

Young is the child of two Korean musicians and was born and raised in the Chicago metropolitan area. They identify as queer and non-binary. They’re currently going through emocore/screamo essentials, and they love indie rock, indie folk, emo, post-hardcore, and math rock. Feel free to take a look at their rateyourmusic account, their last.fm, and this collage of the 100 albums they consider most personally important.