Tanukichan is the moniker of Bay Area native Hannah Van Loom, but could also be considered a collaborative effort with ‘chillwave pioneer’ Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi – who discovered Van Loom after a solo show in 2016, signed her to his label Company Records and has worked closely with her ever since. GIZMO marks Van Loom’s second full album, and it feels like it has a little more grit under its fingernails than her debut LP Sundays. The instrumentals are darker and heavier, and there’s also a lyrical depth throughout that reaches beyond simple or generic dreampop. Over the course of the record’s ten tracks, Van Loom confronts the emotional complexities surrounding time, love, escapism, and feelings of entrapment – making for an authentic and relatable collection of songs that have the potential to be anthemic.
‘Escape’ is the album’s opener. It’s loud and textured, fleshed out with fuzzy guitars and quick-beat drums. Yet, Van Loon’s whispering vocals contrast with the heaviness of the song’s instrumentals. Indeed, throughout the album, her voice floats above the noise – creating a sort of dreamy sonic cocoon that acts as a sort of haven from the album’s themes of frustration and restlessness.
Cymbal heavy, breakbeat drums and distorted basslines also recur throughout the album, and particularly take centre stage in ‘Don’t Give Up’. At just 1 minute and 52 seconds, the song is short but sweet, with Van Loom’s vocals settling on a counter melody as she sings frank, comforting lyrics laced with optimism such as, “just know you’re going to get to a better place”.
‘Been Here Before’ is the song I returned to the most while writing this review. Its swirling, feedback-laden guitar riffs immediately bring The Cocteau Twins to mind, and the layering of different melodies amidst Van Loom’s breathy vocals creates a dreampop soundscape easy to lose oneself in. Indeed, shoegaze appears a major touchstone throughout the record. The production is fuzzy, and there’s a sort of musical looseness to the tracks that feels like it’s aiming to capture the live element as opposed to a clean studio sound – which, I think, only heightens the authentic and genuine feeling of the lyrical content.
With most songs on the album being under 3 minutes long, closer ‘Mr Rain’ marks a towering ending. Over 4 minutes in length and featuring layers of heavy guitars as well as strings, it’s a track full of drama and intensity. The song also features acoustic guitar, with a finger picking melody which adds another interesting layer to the track.
Overall, GIZMO is an album that lies in a sort of uncertain and restless space. Its lyrical preoccupations with time, faith, love, and the nagging feeling of wanting to escape from one’s problems make for a relatable and listenable collection of songs. Life is messy – it moves fast, we can’t always be in control, and getting full emotional closure from things that happen to us can be a rarity. In some senses, GIZMO is cathartic in its acceptance that it is what it is. We can’t endlessly grapple for control over the innate chaos of life, and solutions to our problems often don’t just appear overnight.
GIZMO by Tanukichan is out on 3rd March via Company Records