Peel Dream Magazine‘s Agitprop Alterna breaks standard rock music restrictions and evokes critical thinking. Bringing bliss to your ears, it takes you to a utopian haven where the gods of shoegaze welcome us.
When was the last time I heard a modern shoegaze record and then caught myself listening to it for the twentieth time? The answer is months ago – hell, maybe even years ago – until I came across this piece of art. In enters Peel Dream Magazine‘s Agitprop Alterna. Founded in 2017 by front man Joseph Stevens, the group has already released two full length LPs and one 5-song EP. Their sophomore record Agitprop Alterna shows growth in a short period of time.
Almost immediately, I found myself apprehended by the superb blend of loud, crunchy guitar and its ability to mesh with the comforting melodies. Recalling the likes of Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine, “Pill” is the opening track, setting a standard for the rest of the record. Its tempo-driven beat and hooky vocals instantly had me overjoyed and daydreaming. Immediately it is followed by “Emotional Devotion Creator”. Though drawing similarities in melody to the opening track a bit too soon, the song definitely pushes back and creates its own path – besides, what a cool fucking name for a song.
The third track on this record, “It’s My Body”, brings heavy synth layers and a rather drastically different touch to the band’s sound in the first two tracks. It took a couple of listens to the drum machine and spacey, whizzing synth lead to convince me, but time proved to change my mind. Minutes later, I found myself obsessing over “NYC Illuminati”. Piece by piece, the track fills. The song is a vibe – creating a gateway to groove and bang your head, accompanied by rich lyrics:
‘You work for no one at all/And still have, financial/The freedom to speak freely/And dressed in fantastic/Illusions of starvation/You stand for nothing at all’
“Wood Paneling Pt. 2” is a sound collage of old audio clips from what sounds like British radio from the 60s or 70s, covering the beginning of the DIY music scene. It is also a continuation to “Wood Paneling” from their debut record Modern Meta Physic. This one really allowed me to get lost in the record – giving me more of an experience than a listen.
A couple more tracks pass by in the Peel Dream Magazine mirage, ultimately ending on the track originally released as the titular song of the Up and Up EP. Constant melodic ecstasy between Stevens and his co-vocalist Jo-Anne Hyun, mixed with the ever-present bass line during the verses, sold me on the idea that Agitprop Alterna and the band themselves are on the rise to the upper echelon of shoegaze music. An almost perfect song to end on because it just forces you to want more.
After listening, I had a question or two. I decided to reach out to Stevens and get a real feel for not only the record, but for the intention behind the piece itself. He had this to say about the title Agitprop Alterna:
‘The title is supposed to conjure a made up genre, like alternative. I read that ‘Agitprop’ is a work of art that is supposed to incite audiences to action of some kind, and that it was used to describe Brechtian plays partly because they were associated with Marxism. I’m not a Marxist, but the record deals with materialism and self-sovereignty’
Agitprop Alterna was recorded mostly in Steven’s bedroom, though it sounds like it was made in-studio. Producer and engineer Kelly Winrich provided poetic justice to the project, really giving them the complete sound that you hear on the record,
‘Kelly was great. He comes from a much different background – he works mostly on Americana and pop music, and has a band called Delta Spirit that’s pretty huge.’
Through and through, Peel Dream Magazine‘s Agitprop Alterna proves itself to be one of the best shoegaze records that I have ever heard, despite needing multiple listens to truly understand. Pulling away from the mundane and stale repetitiveness of rock music, it makes you question whether that certain tone should be there or not – that was Stevens’ goal, and he accomplished it.