ALBUM REVIEW: The Virgance – Hiko Shrine (2015)

The Virgance - Hiko ShrineBy Del Chaney


Specialising in writing and producing spectacular instrumental soundscapes via the medium of shoegaze, dream-pop, noise-rock, and/or post-punk on your own is not an easy thing these days. You have to be a master of a certain type of craft to undertake a mammoth project like The Virgance, which is the latest from UK based Nathan Smith, previously of seminal 90’s band Ripley and electro noise merchants Loveless.

Following on from his 2014 debut, Lost Continent, Hiko Shrine is his second album to be released on the brilliant independent netlabel El Vals del Conejo. What Nathan Smith (The Virgance) has produced in both releases is nothing short of genius! His attention to detail is immense. With swirling, looping, arching, reverb-drenched walls of guitar leading the charge through an effortless, almost cinematic, soundscape of haunting vocal lines, thriving drums, and hypnotic bass lines, the experimental tracks on Hiko Shrine are just stunning to listen to. You really have to listen to this album through headphones to experience what I would describe as an absolute feeling of weightlessness in zero gravity!

Hiko Shrine is a perfect example of why I love this genre of music so much. The album epitomises and embodies what I believe this modern-day wave of shoegazing is all about. This is the next level. This is Post-Gaze.

Nathan Smith, The Virgance.

Nathan Smith, The Virgance.

With almost creeping intent, the album’s explosive opening track “Propulsion Lab Part I” enters the musical atmosphere like a steam train. This track is absolutely stunning, taking you to places you could only dream of! Layers of effected guitars loop around your cranium, carefully caressing your eardrums with reverb-produced hallucinogens as you’re led skyward to some imaginary planet where shoegaze is king. “Propulsion Lab Part I” is one of my favourite tracks of this year, a year that is yet young, and I reckon Hiko Shrine will be hanging around my top 5 of 2015 come year-end, it is that bloody good (I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t top end-of-year polls right across the board this year).

You could press play on any one of the tracks on this immense album and instantly get lost daydreaming your way through its epic soundscapes. From the extremely addictive “Mobius Strip” straight through to my second favourite track, “Breitling Orbiter,” and on to its closing track “Slingshot,” Hiko Shrine is breathtakingly immense. Walls of sound entice you in and lead you through numerous layers of post-punk and dream-pop-infused gaze, propelling you into the heavens.

A roller coaster of sound waves and sonic pulses, ethereal vocals, pounding drums, throbbing bass lines, and looping guitar swell’s, Hiko Shrine is, put simply, a wondrous thing. It’s hard to believe that this maelstrom of epic sound was written and produced by just one person. What Nathan Smith has achieved is amazing and I congratulate him on releasing a kraken of a musical masterpiece that I shall be listening to for a long time to come!


DEL CHANEY is a self-confessed music freak and is never far away from a turntable. He divides his time between fronting popular electronic band Analogue Wave and uncovering and actively promoting artists from all over the globe in the shoegaze, dream pop, noise-rock, & post-rock genres with The Primal Music Blog and The Primal Radio Show. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Del is a keen vinyl collector, tattoo fan, & all round good guy.

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