If you’re the sort to have gone on expeditions for new music of the shoegaze/dreampop variety beyond the usual suspects over the past, oh, quarter century or so, you’ve probably heard the name Ozean, probably spoken of in hushed tones (or whatever the equivalent of hushed tones on Usenet boards was). An outfit from the Bay Area of California who recorded a demo that matched the first wave of British shoegazers in ethereal beauty but disbanded before shortly afterwards.

That demo was a 3-song EP that only existed on a cassette, released – which may be too generous a word – in 1993. But still, enough people heard it for it to become something of a mythical artifact in certain circles, and remained as such until a copy was finally unearthed and restored to be put out digitally and as a 12″ in 2017 by Moon Sounds Records.

The official bio recounts the tale, which reads like a fairy tale of forming a band in the pre-internet days:

While exiting a RIDE and Lush show in 1991, Eric Shea was handed a flyer that read, “Band seeking guitarist and singer. Influences include Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, Xmal Deutschland, The Byrds, Lush, Pale Saints.” Not even a week after calling the number listed below, Shea brought his Rickenbacker over to Mike Prosenko’s home. After admiring his vintage Fender Jaguar and talking about music, Shea and Prosenko plugged in and began creating the music that would become Ozean. Both musicians agreed that the songs they were writing called for a female singer with an otherworldly voice. Enter Lisa Baer. Influenced by the breathy cooing of Astrud Gilberto and the songs of The Jesus And Mary Chain, she was the perfect fit. The trio tried out various bass players and drummers to fill out their rhythm section after booking time with Michael Padilla to record their demo on his Fostex Model 80 1/4″ 8-Track reel-to-reel tape recorder. They enlisted Mark Baldwin to infuse their demos with his Peter Hook inspired rhythmic talents before mixing to DAT and releasing a few private pressed cassettes to friends. As with many young bands of the early 1990s, Ozean disbanded too soon. But an accidental rediscovery of these 1992 recordings begged for a reissue. Unfortunately, the original DAT master was nowhere to be found. But thanks to Tim Green of Louder Studios, a remaster from one of the original cassettes is now available for download.

Ozean / Ozean @ Moon Sounds Records

As someone who’d heard about this band for so many years but only ever seen the promo photo, which for the longest time was the only physical evidence the band existed, finally hearing the three songs was very satisfying. Heard through 2023 ears, which have already been seasoned by the sounds of countless bands influenced by the original Scene That Celebrates Itself, it sounds very on the nose – female vocals swathed in reverb, jangly and shimmering guitars, faintly dancey drums – but you can definitely understand how it would have gotten those back in 1993 so excited.

Somewhere Cold got an interview with Ozean guitarist Eric Shea and vocalist Lisa Baer in 2017 to discuss the Ozean’s short moment in the sun, why it ended, and how the reissue came to be.

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