Serena-Maneesh S-M Backwards

Though their breakthrough self-titled debut appeared out of nowhere in 2005, Norway’s Serena-Maneesh were hardly new kids on the block. They had years of recordings under their belts, including a couple of EPs that were limited to Norway-only release because they couldn’t get proper distribution. Cue a lengthy gap between albums and it’s a perfect time for the psych rockers to empty the vaults and tide over fans. S-M Backwards collects 2002’s Fixxations and ZUR†CK (an assortment of material from 1999 to 2003) for an attractive two-disc set that sheds some light on where they came from. The heavy shoegaze textures on their full-length aren’t nearly as prominent on either EP, leaving them to reveal psychedelia as the true foundation. As a package, they work more as a curiosity than cohesive listens, lacking coherence or chronology. The sequencing for each is handled with unorthodox care, giving remixes precedence over the originals. Truth be told, it’s better pushing the superior remixes to the front — the extra effort put into fine-tuning those songs brings them closer to matching the superb quality of their album — leaving the demo-quality originals more as dessert. Fixxations is definitely the more enjoyable of the two, likely because it was more of a finished piece but despite its tendency to trail off, ZUR†CK has a couple moments, like "Degenerate,” that give it some value. S-M Backwards shouldn’t be granted the same enthusiasm as a proper follow-up album but for anyone interested in Serena-Maneesh’s history, this is a revealing and mostly rewarding document. (Smalltown Supersound)