Belong – Common Era

written by: April 14, 2011
Release Date: March 21, 2011


Conceived in muggy depths of New Orleans, shoegazing duo Belong boast a murky and atmospheric sound that hovers like brooding swamp fog. Belong started as an instrumental ambient group, while their newest effort, Common Era, finds the band detracting from this sound in peculiar ways, but by and large, they retain their seismic timbre.

Common Era sounds exactly like a good shoegaze album should: Thick walls of sound and fuzz create a hazy sound scape that envelops the listener. But beneath all the noise lies undeniably intriguing instrumentation. It’s difficult to make something that sounds so formless so melodic, but Belong know how to craft a tune.

Such as the opener “Come See,” a track that appears arduous on the surface but reveals itself to be entirely listenable as it unfolds. A wiry rhythm section battles the overpowering resonance of feedback and distortion, making for an eclectic listen. Other songs, like “A Walk” and “Different Heart” follow a similar path. The cloudy textures crafted by the band manage to be as demanding as they are pleasurable.

However, if when listening to Common Era you begin to suffer from a strong case of “I’ve heard this somewhere before,” it’s with good reason. The album loses its footing when Belong relies on its influences a little too strongly.

They’ve skirted this dangerous territory before: October Language—the outfit’s 2006 debut—boasted obvious nods toward My Bloody Valentine by way of a Meddle­­-era Pink Floyd aesthetic. Meanwhile, their 2008 EP Colorless Record is merely a collection of genre riffs. Covering songs from the likes of Syd Barrett and Billy Nichols, the album is a nice idea but ultimately useless in terms of forming a unique sound. Arriving at Common Era, Belong appeared to have stayed this course.

Falling victim to predictability, much of the album is simply enjoyable and little more.

Where “Come See” illustrates the band’s ability to dexterously sustain their wall of sound, “Keep Still” is a perfect example of the exact opposite. Elongated riffs often overstay their welcome, burdening the album and reducing it to a series of annoyances.

More ineffectual are the vocals. In previous efforts, singer Turk Dietrich used his voice less as a focal point and more like another layer in a wide range of sounds. For Common Era, Belong took this minimalist aesthetic and reverted it further. There are points at which Dietrich’s voice may not as well be present, lost in the aimless feedback.

Each of the album’s worst tracks shares a common flaw: They build and churn for five minutes or so before abruptly ending without reaching any finite conclusion. The end result sounds something like a slow motion Phish concert: incessant noodling stands in the way of any clear ideas. Relying on this kind of sonic overload paints Belong as a pair of meandrous genre nerds unable to craft songs with individual merit—which is unfortunate, considering the numerous bright spots on the album.

Stepping outside the aesthetic might do the trick.

Belong – Common Era Tracklist:

  1. “Come See”
  2. “Never Came Close”
  3. “A Walk”
  4. “Perfect Life”
  5. “Keep Still”
  6. “Different Heart”
  7. “Make Me Return”
  8. “Common Era”
  9. “Very Careful”