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S-M Backwards

Serena Maneesh

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Album Review

Serena Maneesh's 2005 debut album was an impressive work of neo-shoegaze, neo-noise rock that seemed to come out of nowhere — unless you lived in Norway or were hip enough to hear either of the two EPs that preceded the record, that is. Released in 2002, Fixxations caught a lighter, less epic-sounding band able to rip off a super pretty pop song like "Drive Me Home the Lonely Nights," choogle through the tough rocker "Blues Like Beehive," or drift through the spacy "Ballad of Jezebel" like a disciple of Sonic Boom. Only on "Oxygen, Please!" did they hint at the noise explosion that would soon follow. Mostly the group sounded like a sprightly, good-natured version of Medicine, which is not a bad goal at all. Zurück, though it came out after Fixxations, contained material recorded between 1999 and 2003. It also showcased a less focused, more experimental side of the band; from the ambient soundscape of "Introspection" and the dreamlike haze of "Leipziger Love" (both recorded in 2001) to the noisy recorded-in-one-raw-take "Degenerate" and the droning but lovely "Never," the band seemed less interested in crafting songs than in creating sound and mood. Put the two EPs together and you have a pretty good template for the album that followed.

In 2008 Smalltown Supersound released S-M Backwards, a double-disc set housing both EPs plus bonus mixes of many of the songs and an unreleased track, the creepy and atmospheric "Death Parade, Slow." The mixes are interesting but not revelatory. Kramer cleans up and adds some sparkle to "Drive Me Home the Lonely Nights," the duo of Daniel C. Smith and Emyle give "Hear Bleed Phil Harmonic" a Robin Guthrie-ish sheen and rough up "Sehnsucht/Drag Me Upstairs" with some truly ugly guitar sounds, and Christopher Colbert stretches "Leipziger Love" into an epic-length ambient guitar jam. The mixes are a nice addition, but the two EPs could really stand on their own as twin building blocks of the Serena Maneesh sound. Smalltown Supersound has done fans of the band and of the modern shoegaze sound a huge favor by putting them together and putting them out, extras or no.

Biography

Formed: Oslo, Norway

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

It's hardly controversial to claim that Serena Maneesh are the brainchild of the musically über-potent Emil Nikolaisen. Perhaps initially best known as the drummer/main ideologue of celebrated glam-punk outfit Silver, Nikolaisen has most certainly been around the block. He is a man of extremes; despite his relatively young age (he was born in 1977), he gained some serious band experience in the '90s during his brief stint as a guitarist with Christian extreme metal band Extol, and as a drummer for...
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S-M Backwards, Serena Maneesh
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