One-man-band Michael Dykehouse combines his love of Ride, Kevin Shields and guitar effects on the bedroom-produced, iMac-based Midrange, his first for Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Ghostly International. He uses tinny atmospherics and bright guitar melodies in his own personal tribute to the messy-haired space cadets that came before him: the empty-pill-bottle fare of 1990s shoegaze.
Often Dykehouse overtly exercises rosy affection for his influences on Midrange. The “Chain Smoking” single, which Ghostly released as a seven-inch earlier in 2004, owes quite a bit to Ride’s “Twisterella” in its rolling tempo and spirited guitar progression. It’s one of the album’s catchiest and is a good example of how the rest of album sounds. As evident in the first few lines of “Chain Smoking,” the lyrics are intentionally terrible: “You’re kinda soft, and I’m so hard/ when we made out in your backyard/ I tried to undo your pants.” But they’re the only of their kind on Midrange — the rest is more focused, dreamy noise-pop.
The short wordless intervals on Midrange would make for effective slabs of melodic ‘90s psychedelia, but they cut out quickly and only offer What Could Have Been. Ah, well; the completed structures on the album make up for said teasing. “Signal Crossing” and “One More Day,” Dykehouse’s strongest pieces, bookend Midrange, appearing after the album’s instrumental intro and before its outro.
“Signal Crossing” is a constant upheaval of synths; slick, delay-laden guitar leads; and a melody that brings a little Billy Idol back into the limelight. Dykehouse’s vocals are buried somewhat in the sea of Loveless-like theatrics, and before he can catch his breath, the song spins out into the next track. Appearing eleven slots later, “One More Day” picks up the energy of the album’s sharp opener. He cues up lovesick verses on his desktop for this one and after about three minutes, a thick break in this piece outdoes the rest of the album. The drums drop out, and it’s just him and some backup vocals over the lush, swirling elements that characterize Midrange. It’s a space too short for such a bright moment. It should be longer and there should be more, but like the rest of the LP, it’s colorful enough to bask in while fondly remembering the records that contributed to the making of this one.