Agitated Atmosphere: Broken Water – Peripheral Star

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Broken Water.

How three-piece Broken Water remains a mystery, even amongst the music-hungry masses of their Pacific Northwest backyard. The Olympian trio blasted open the time machine doors with their critically adored Whet. The joint release of the album — particularly its exposure to DIY aficionados under the cloak and dagger of premiere Iowa City label Night People — lent Broken Water an audience it may not have known it had: a group of experimental fans who thirsted for the grunged bliss of yesteryear.

The rebirth of the “alternative” 90s is now well in effect thanks to reunions and reformations. As Whet set Broken Water’s course toward the late 80s/early 90s confusion of Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth, they eagerly veered off course thanks to the darkly shoegaze of their follow-up 7-inch, “Normal Never Happened” b/w “Faux King Vogue.” Never content to be pinned down by retro references and daring not repeat them, it’s this same attention to challenging themselves that inhabits their latest EP, Peripheral Star.

The pained shoegaze of “Normal Never Happened” finds itself stuffed into a succinct package courtesy of EP opener and title track, “Peripheral Star.” The track isn’t as sprawling as its ancestor but more than makes up for it with a sensual melody and a chainsaw guitar riff. “Okane No” is a playful addition to Broken Water’s repertoire, utilizing a lazy fuzz bass and cute vocal inflection that showcases a band comfortable straddling the lines of experimentalism and pop. “Kansas” and its antithesis, “Stop Means Stop,” are Peripheral Star’s standouts, finding Broken Water doing what they do best: grow. “Kansas” is Whet post-college; slacker streak intact, but a head full of knowledge and a bowing book shelf heavy with sinister ideas and heady reads. “Stop Means Stop” stands on the strength of its brutal yet catchy punk influence.

Listen to “Peripheral Star”:

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Why the Pacific Northwest continues to sleep on their very own remains an open question but consider this your chance to check in with before the Sandman’s spell is lifted and everyone’s grogginess becomes wide-eyed devotion.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. He also pens Deserted for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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