Belong's second long player has been a long time coming, at least judged in the context of a genre where many bands seem to be pumping out new material on a near constant basis. Of course, a gap between albums can be an indication of a developing sound, and fans of October Language may be surprised at the new direction, although their more recent cover EP of 60s psychedelia, Colorless Record may have provided a hint.

The change is apparent from the outset, as Belong ditch the bulk of their synths and opt instead for a more or less classic shoegaze kit that persists, virtually unchanged, for the rest of the album. If this sounds limiting, then rest assured, the instrumentation is one of Common Era's strongest points, and manages to achieve a depth that felt a little lacking in its predecessor. Much of this is down to the addition of a drum machine, an unashamed excavation from the original early 90s dream pop scene, which gives Dietrich and Jones a lot more control over the pace, and acts as a much needed counterpoint to the almost drugged reverb that seems to seep into every available crevice.

This is best in evidence on the opening track, 'Come See', which starts off with a glorious mess of piercing feedback and reprocessed guitars, before being picked up and carried along by a persistent drumloop. 'A Walk' stands out as another highlight - the palette is harsh, but at the same time manages a heavy fullness that in turn becomes almost sinister as it threatens to engulf the whole track. And Belong haven't completely abandoned the more languid approach of October Language, with 'Keep Still' and the title track, 'Common Era', eschewing the drum machine in a move that proves pleasantly disorientating.

Put simply, Common Era is a good album, and an altogether more balanced affair than Belong's first, which opened strongly before falling oddly flat. But it also feels, at times, like a missed opportunity. The subtlety of October Language - which coyly offered you the occasional glimpse of My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus and Mary Chain - has been sacrificed for a sound that is far more overt, and some may find the tattooing of 'we heart Kevin Shields' across Belong's forehead to be little too brazen.

Ultimately, however, Common Era maintains a self-awareness that allows it to stop short of pastiche. The artwork as well as the title evoke a rapidly eroding history, more cultural than personal, and the album seems best understood as an attempt at cultural recovery. Fidelity noticeably degrades as it progresses, and the final track, 'Very Careful', verges on complete disintegration. In this sense, Belong appear to be commenting on the progression of the post-rock scene, with its growing tendency towards dissolution and self-annihilation. Against this, Common Era tries desperately to remember its own past; it's shoegaze, but shoegaze through the lens of William Basinski.

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