Whirr: Pipe Dreams (Tee Pee) 

Guitarist Nick Bassett of San Francisco black-metal band Deafheaven has a new, wildly different project, a shoegaze-revivalist sextet called Whirr.

This mysterious Bay Area band ambitiously seeks to return rock 'n' roll to the year 1991, when My Bloody Valentine pushed miasmic guitar-pop to its outer limits with the acclaimed Loveless. Instead of MBV becoming superstars, Nirvana did, unintentionally resulting in grunge, rap-rock, nü-metal and other forms of ear torture.

Whirr is having none of it, taking the volume and density of smeared, IMAX-sized, amplifier-disintegrating, drone-dependent barre chords and whisking in barely-there pop melodies with indecipherable lyrics. In other words, Pipe Dreams is a late-'80s alt-rock lover's wet dream, a throwback to the days when the mighty Dinosaur Jr. first roamed the earth.

Take, for example, the celestial six-string work of "Hide"—the title no doubt referring to the cooing, ghostly female vocals of Alexandra Morte, which are deeply buried in layers of noisy, feedback-edged sound. It's not all wallpaper for cubicle slaves; upbeat "Junebouvier" borders on power-pop, with the drum kit enduring much punishment. There's also the Brian Eno-influenced, minimalist hum of closing track "Reverie," a celebration of ambient music's thrall.

Sure, Whirr's a bit of a retro-tribute. Given the state of modern rock, who can blame them? Pipe Dreams has already earned a spot on my list of the top discs of 2012.

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