When the duo of Long Meach mavericks in Shiro delivered their debut EP over four years ago, they, like many young people, were looking to focus their creative energies somewhere productive. As they grew and developed, continually bartering over each other's artistic intuitions and denoting the world's injustices while also reflecting on love, trauma, the legacy of synths, and the enigma of the future, they prevailed in the hearts of fans like conquistadors.
Still, much of the music that arrived from Hannah Park and Steven Spillage was implicitly occupied with a commotion of cynical yet compassionate narratives. Coming off the backend of a quarantine that left America stunted, and trafficking in an array of singles that emulsified their sonic aesthetic to a perfect consistency, it was hard for fans to feel patient when they first announced their latest EP, 'Remain,' and today, fans can let out a deep sigh of relief with its arrival.
Part of Shiro's appeal is in how their early EP's and their manifold of singles exhibited the sounds of Dark-wave, Synth-rock, and at times garage-reminiscent Post-punk. Largely fashioned from seeping vocals and glitchy computerized synths that gyrated in a balance between something like Radio Head and a Bjork mix-tape, their numbers are ambient and yearning, yet soulful, and eclectic.
Shiro stares passionately into the eyes of a fading world and, swiftly, shakes up the foundations on which it stands, with their enigmatic, almost otherwordly audible displays, like looking into a sonic kaleidoscope. Over the four years since their first release, the duo has been working fervently towards informing their listeners and educating them, and with 'Remain,' they continue their cosmonaut trajectory into realms of profound emotions that fans should prepare themselves to experience.
On the mystifying opening track "Guilt," Shiro nods to the fact that they're hiding the bottomless emotion of guilt and how it festers within, with all its decrying energy. Lamenting over steadying electro-braided back-beats from what feels like the deeper expanses of space, Hannah intones with an iridescent echo that latches onto her trailing words like kudzu: "somebody helps you, you're so figured out, I'm nobody's angel, and causing them all mass hysteria." It's the same kind of hyper-dynamic, magnetized songs they've made since their conception.
Some of 'Remain's' takes this aesthetic and ambiance to even more fabulous expanses. "Gold Teeth," for instance, is prismatic and gregariously ambient, musing over the complete acceptance and catharsis found within love ("let's just say I do, fall forevermore,") overtop an instrumental that sounds like it's slowly evaporating into space, splitting apart at a molecular level to super-charge the air with a kinetic energy that works in-tandem with Hannah's voice. It's a song that makes you feel like you've been transported into the same reflective room that the duo is performing from, and as the emollient harmonies diffuse from the voids, your left in a meditative state with a soothing after-glow.
Much of the songs on 'Remain' give off the feeling of being malleable and dynamic, especially with the variations of emotionally-charged sonics they produce and the inescapable sense of air their compositions utilize. A song like "Seaweed" employs this stratagem beautifully, inaugurating Shiro's mantra-like epiphany with the sounds of birds chirping, ominously droning wails in the backdrop, and a saturated low-end that uproots the feeling of the song from cathartic to grim with the snap of its sinuous fingers. Throughout the entire endeavor, as Hannah resounds like a cherubic songstress over, "mercy mercy mercy wait, cos it's all a day away, cos it's all a day away, and I keep you so long baby," Steven paint their breathing production with a diverse array of filtering swells, punchy beats, and overwhelmingly gorgeous howlings from below, above, and beyond.
The highlighter and probably the most adhesive track on 'Remain' comes in the love-sick smooth-cadenced, "Malpaís." Here, a gritty electric guitar takes form over the atmosphere's of the mix with a bent at suggesting like a lysergic escape from the feeling of wanting to cry and denounce love; or maybe it's the opposite, and it makes you want to hunker down under your heaviest blanket for a session of eye-watering predilections. It's just a testimonial to the sort of freedom Shiro allows fans throughout their playback.
Regardless, when Hannah works in-tandem with the steady crunching drums that Steven masterfully inlays underneath her, there's a paramount sense of aching that surfaces, making you want to sway along to the intoxicating aura it creates within. It's an amorous song, but with a tendency at sounding therapeutic, even if Hannah is rueing amongst her dejected feelings: "I feel like going off, I feel like getting over it, I feel like getting out, I feel like getting tired." When it's all over, and the last bits of this gemstone single fades out with all its lithe choreography, back into the shimmering rifts, you're left with a sense of undeniable purification. Maybe you can relate, or perhaps the instrumentals took hold of your body; the point is, it will make you feel something special.
The record's closer, "I Remember," is one of the more gallantly resounding moments on the record, connecting soothing vocals and jovial sounding synths in an emollient surge that feels like a détente between the gloom Shiro's lyrics, are indisputably colored with, and the upliftment their instrumentals inject into your soul: "just look at who I have become, I've been a soul forsaken, and I just don't know where to go."
It's a quietly devastating anecdote, focusing-in on the feeling of holding on before letting go. But even this track sounds bright at its heart, with each refrain giving audiences time to swallow and quarter the echoing sentiments Hannah and Steven are distributing with care. You could easily describe it as the meddlesome physiological monologues that fester within you on restless nights: "Where do we go from here? Where do we go from here? Follow me into nothing, don't let me say goodbye."
When the smooth dance between purified electric guitars and glimmering sprite-like synths begin to fade out alongside Hannah's incandescent whisperings, there's nothing left to be wanting; every crevasse overflowing within Shiro's magical sonics, and the super-charged air surrounding those pits of emotion don't feel threatening—they're welcoming.
The sorts of emotionally-charged tendencies found within 'Remain' are commonplace for the duo, but their confidence and mastery in production prove to be a testament to the newfound prominence their expressions hold in the age we live in.
Bolstered by Steven Spillane and chaperoned by Hannah Park, this record finds Shiro solidifying many of the aural trajectories from their previous singles. They still shine with vocals that blossom within a haze of decays, their instrumentals are inlaid with meticulous attention to design, their synth lines present even more elusive, and the seldom distorted saturation is more potent. They've always been competent in formulating their feelings through sound, but they seem now more able than ever to amalgamate those cohesive sentiments into an EP that glistens.
'Remain' is a luring bid at enticing fans to follow them down into the substrata of their most contemporary musical opus yet.
Can you tell us how you corroborated together to make sure "Remain" had the most cohesive playback experience? What was the biggest challenge in picking the order with which each song would arrive?
A lot of times when we write songs, we start gaining a loose idea of the order of the songs based on the emotions they convey. The whole EP felt like a comedown from a toxic or stressful situation, due to the subject matters and vibes of the songs, so we more or less tried to make the EP flow in that way. The biggest challenge was trying to keep the energy of the EP going while still conveying the emotional message of each track. If you could pin-point the two primary emotions that you think influenced the way 'Remain' turned out as a whole, which would they be, and why do you think they were so impactful for you?
The two primary emotions were anger and sadness. They were so impactful for us because we were grieving the loss of many friends, family members, and previous life stages that we couldn't access anymore, due to age or distance or the plain fact that they just didn't exist anymore in the physical realm. Sadness was the inspiration behind many of our songs, while anger was the guiding light that showed us where we needed to make the most adjustments in our lives. With anger came clarity, and that is kinda what guided how the EP feels: anger and sadness turned to resolution and inspiration. To make it more comprehensive: "Guilt", the first track, is all about being an angry, toxic person, "Malpaís", the second track, is acknowledging sadness, "Seaweed" is an elegy for the things and people that have passed on in our lives, "Gold Teeth" is the moment of clarity and self-love, and "I Remember" is remembering and respecting all the loved ones and experiences that made a great impact on our lives. When you think back to the years you've spent working together as Shiro, and now with the latest release of 'Remain,' what strikes you as the most significant learning experience throughout all this time? Did you find yourselves incorporating that lesson into this record somehow?
The most significant learning experience was just learning not to be afraid. We are both very introverted people with varying degrees of negative life experiences that can make us scared to go after the things we love. Working on this release has made us realize time is so short. We have changed a lot as people and as a band. We went from being extremely angry people in a four-piece, indie rock band into becoming hopefully more compassionate, confident, and loving people in an indie synthpop duo in a relatively short time. Being in this project has made us learn to love people more deeply and be more honest. The whole experience of chasing this musical experience is one of the scariest, life-changing things we've ever done, and we definitely use love and growth as the main themes of this record. Are there any musical influences or inspirations you can thank for some of the aesthetics you found yourselves leaning towards in 'Remain?' Who are these influencers, and why did you feel they had such an immense impact on you two personally and throughout 'Remain?'
We credit Radiohead and Portishead for always influencing us to go towards the dark and symphonic sounds! The "Third" Album by Portishead was particularly huge for us. Also Blood Orange and SZA's album "Z" shaped a lot of Hannah's lyricism and wispy phrasing. We also love Cocteau Twins for their huge guitar tones; Burial, Bjork, Sassy 009, and many many many others (especially in the outsider house genre) for electronic beat inspirations. We've always loved a big, melancholy sound that is very textured without being too dramatic which is why we were particularly influenced by these artists. If you could give your listeners a few words that would act as the prologue for the Artists you've become, the ethos you represent now, and the experience behind 'Remain,' what would you say?
As a band, we are constantly evolving and shifting in sound. We have written new songs since "Remain" that are totally different in feel, and we still keep evolving and getting better, but we will still remain dedicated to breaking sonic boundaries with texturized computer beats, ethereal guitar, and humanistic vocals and lyrics at the center of it all.