Home Read Albums Of The Week: Horsegirl | Versions of Modern Performance

Albums Of The Week: Horsegirl | Versions of Modern Performance

The Chicago indie trio blend a slew of ’80s & ’90s influences — including shoegaze, post-punk & more — into a cool debut album that is more than the sum of its parts.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Horsegirl are best friends. You don’t have to talk to the trio for more than five minutes to feel the warmth and strength of their bond, which crackles through every second of their debut full-length Versions of Modern Performance.

Penelope Lowenstein (guitar, vocals), Nora Cheng (guitar, vocals) and Gigi Reece (drums) do everything collectively, from songwriting to trading vocal duties and swapping instruments to sound and visual art design. “We made [this album] knowing so fully what we were trying to do,” the band says. “We would never pursue something if one person wasn’t feeling good about it. But also, if someone thought something was good, chances are we all thought it was good.”

The friendship of these three goes far beyond Horsegirl. Reece and Cheng, college freshmen, and Lowenstein, a high school senior, learned to play — and met — through the significant network of Chicago youth arts programs, and they have their own mini-rock underground, complete with ’zine distros, that they describe as somewhat separate from the “adult shows” that take place at bars and DIY spaces they donʼt have access to. Theyʼre exultant about their friendsʼ talent, noting that any of the bands from that scene could have been (or might still be!) plucked up the way they were.

Versions of Modern Performance was recorded with John Agnello (Kurt Vile, The Breeders, Dinosaur Jr.) at Electrical Audio. “It’s our debut bare-bones album in a Chicago institution with a producer who we feel like really respected what we were trying to do,” the band say. Horsegirl expertly play with texture, shape, and shade across the record, showcasing their fondness for improvisation and experimentation.

One can hear elements of the ’80s and ’90s independent music the band love so deeply and sincerely — the scuzzy melodicism of what used to be called “college rock,” the cool, bubbly space-age sheen of the ’90s vamps on lounge and noir; the warm, noisy roar of shoegaze; the economical hooks and rhythms of post-punk. Thereʼs even a bit of no wave mixed in for good measure. But as Horsegirl fuse all of this together, it feels not like a pastiche or a hacky retread but something as playful and unique as its predecessors. Theyʼre best understood as part of a continuum, but theyʼre building something for themselves.”