Tears Run Rings’s Distance literally picks up where the band’s previous album left off, its opening track, “Happiness Part 3,” a sequel to the closing track from their 2008 debut Always, Sometimes, Seldom, Never. More functionally, the album also fleshes out and develops its predecessor’s themes, creating a thick shoegaze sound that, while occasionally flat, is often mesmerizing.
It’s easy to forget that the album’s dense sonic texturing, its layered synths and dreamy, fuzz-like bricks and mortar, has been done before (and better), especially considering the way the songs slide seamlessly from instrumental reverie to faraway vocals and back. The opening track is a thicket of gentle noise, full of motifs that flit in and out of the mix, including an apparent riff on Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks theme.
“Forgotten” borrows a lot from Asobi Seksu, with vocals that come off as both sinister and girlish and textures that quickly rush by like sights viewed from a moving car. The title track is sparse and expansive, tinged with echo effects and slowly surging vocals. Overall, Distance is spryly paced and busy enough that listening to it can be both soothing and disorienting. More might have been accomplished had the time spent tweaking these quivering tableaux been used to establish a less imitative style, but the album is so well made that it’s only slightly unfortunate that it dips so often into the shoegaze coffer.
A song like “Reunion” is strong despite its familiarity, and its ability to replicate the best points of the influences its aping serves as a kind of mastery in itself. This may suggest a band still finding its own sound, but also one with the potential to reach more distinctive heights. If not, the pleasures of Distance, warm and abuzz with competing sounds, are their own accomplishment.