In the 14 or so years since I first encountered his music, I’ve more or less lost track of how many albums Tom Lugo has had an involvement with, either with the band Stellarscope or, as here, with his own ongoing project Panophonic. His first band Arnold Layne were formed in 1994, in Philadelphia, and it’s probably safe to say the blueprints for his current musical endeavours were formed then. A longtime aficianado of postpunk, dreampop and the layered guitar sound of Lush, Cocteau Twins, Ride and others – no one really mentions Chapterhouse much nowadays, for example – Tom Lugo has continued to push at his own musical boundaries.
These influences are present right from opening track ‘Shine’ and its combination of melody and multi layered guitar construction. It’s a sound that has taken on a life of its own as Tom Lugo and numerous other musicians continue to base their own music on the acknowledged greats of a genre that’s often referred to Shoegaze, a description that originated when it was noticed that the first wave of these bands more often than not refused for whatever reason to look at their audiences, preferring to look at the boards beneath their feet for guitar pedals, dropped plectrums, or for other reasons.
Shoegazing was born out of the behaviour of the musicians themselves rather than the actual music, and in a genre that can include bands as varied as Suede, Loop and Spacemen 3, it’s a matter of convenience that the description stuck.
This is less relevant to ‘Awakening’ than it may appear though. Going through the motions isn’t enough to make music such as this actually work. Besides his skill as a guitarist Tom Lugo is also a songwriter and producer of some ability. Whether the songs on ‘Awakening’ are ballads or harder edged numbers, they share his ability to reconnect with the music that continues to inspire him and add his own voice to the swirling guitars and understated rhythmic elements. It should also be said that in addition to his musical ability that he is also a practised vocalist, more than able to carry the sometimes complex arrangements of his songs. The final track on ‘Awakenings’ is sung by vocalist Dani Mari, and ‘Unhinge’ is more than a fitting conclusion to the album, it’s an unashamedly epic Dreampop powerballad that showcases Tom Lugo as a committed and quite real talent, while Dani Mari’s voice filters through the song with a combination of frailty and power. ‘Awkenings’ is far from the last we’ll hear from Panophonic, and you won’tneed expert level knowledge of the multitude of bands gathered beneath the Shoegaze description to appreciate it .