Combining intense life experiences with atmospheric, layered sounds, Voluptuous Panic is a West Coast-via-Midwest shoegaze band created by The Icicles frontwoman, Gretchen DeVault and music journalist Brian J. Bowe.
Voluptuous Panic began in 2013, when Bowe reached out to DeVault from his temporary apartment in Paris. As DeVault tumbled through postpartum depression in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bowe was spending a year teaching at the Sorbonne and experiencing an existential crisis of his own. Discovering a mutual understanding of their shared emotional states, they began crafting transoceanic tracks as a sort of therapy. Drawing influence from bands like Yo La Tengo, Slowdive and the Cocteau Twins, Voluptuous Panic’s recordings pair emotionally vulnerable lyrics with complex instrumental textures, delicate-yet-loud notes and DeVault’s melodic dream-pop vocals.
After releasing a half-dozen singles online over the past three years, the band released its debut EP, “Une Sorte de Panique Voluptuese.” That phrase was found in a book by sociologist Erving Goffman, and it roughly translates to the pleasurable kind of fear that comes from perception-disorienting experiences like roller coasters and horror movies. It offers a fitting moniker for Voluptuous Panic: two artists with mutual anxiety who push each other into areas of discomfort to try and touch life’s terrifying beauty.
This collection of their earliest recordings features a distinct blending of Bowe and DeVault’s individual visions. DeVault found commercial success with indie-popsters The Icicles, while Bowe comes from a more musically aggressive, punk rock background. Drummer Zane DeVault and bassist Niel Carlson rounded out this incarnation of the group.
The magic of Voluptuous Panic comes from DeVault’s and Bowe’s remote recording style: each is completely alone when they sit down at the mic. These days, Bowe is based in Bellingham, Washington and DeVault splits her time between Los Angeles and rural northern Michigan. This isolation allows them to give brutally and beautifully honest performances, which shine through in their recordings. This approach also allows Bowe and DeVault to continue collaborating from wherever they find themselves. With clear musicianship and emotional savvy, Voluptuous Panic has charged into the world of shoegaze atmospheric dreampop. And they are keeping the momentum going.