Shoegazy Olympians Desolation Wilderness play ModernFormations | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Shoegazy Olympians Desolation Wilderness play ModernFormations

There's a fair amount of shoreline imagery associated with dream-pop quartet Desolation Wilderness. The band's promo trailer for New Universe, its second album on K Records, finds the silhouetted members prancing about on the beach, while the album art depicts the gentle waves at the edge of the ocean. This is all despite the geographical fact that the band's home base, Olympia, Wash., is not that close to the sea. 

Olympia has long been an indie-rock hotbed, though: "There's a lot of college kids making music, and a new all-ages space called The Northern just opened up," says frontman Nicolaas Zwart. And the foursome's music -- a lazy, hazy blend of jangly guitar reverb, plodding slowcore drums and echoey vocals -- evokes a Super-8 home movie from a roadtrip to the beach with the top down.

But Desolation Wilderness (named after an unspoiled area in California's El Dorado National Park) isn't trying to create a new Pet Sounds. Both New Universe and the band's 2008 debut, White Light Strobing, have been likened to the luminaries of the shoe-gazer movement, as well as the fuzz-laden bands that immediately preceded it in the '80s, such as Galaxie 500 and Jesus & Mary Chain.

Zwart won't deny that shoe-gaze acts have been a factor -- particularly My Bloody Valentine's Loveless -- but he stresses that DW began as his solo electronic project. "I like a lot of musique concréte, academic electronic music and drone stuff -- LaMonte Young is a big one -- so that's where my primary influence comes from."

He also prefers not to be lumped into whatever dream-pop revival seems to be taking place elsewhere in the scene (Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Deerhunter). And though Zwart appreciates the faded-photo ambience of Boards of Canada, he hasn't yet delved into the "hypnagogic pop" genre (a term coined by The Wire's David Keenan to describe groups pulling from blurry childhood nostalgia for the '80s, like The Skaters and Emeralds). 

"We're going to start playing with samples and change the sound a lot again. It's hard for me to draw comparisons to those other bands because we're in a state of flux," says Zwart. "I want to create imagery that's more futuristic and not so much memory-based. As the band evolves, that desire will come to the forefront."


Desolation Wilderness with On Various Days, Tusk Lord. 7 p.m. Mon. Sept. 7. ModernFormations Gallery, 4919 Penn Ave., Garfield. $7. All ages. 412-362-0274 or

Shoegazy Olympians Desolation Wilderness play ModernFormations
Lazy, hazy: Desolation Wilderness