Active since the late '90s, Airiel's ambitious brand of spacy, wistful dream pop has earned a small but dedicated following. The Chicago-based group's lush washes of effects-heavy guitars and yearning vocals bring to mind U.K. shoegaze acts like Kitchens of Distinction and Ride as well as American indie songwriters like Bob Mould.
Guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Wrenn, formerly of shoegaze band Black Olive, founded Airiel Project One in Bloomington, Indiana in 1997. Following a 1998 split EP with the Sunflower Conspiracy, Wrenn shortened the band's name to just Airiel, and British label Roisin Recordings released their debut 7" single, "Shirley Temple Tidal Wave." Eventually relocating to Chicago, the group sporadically appeared on compilations and gave away a limited CD-R EP titled Christmas Colors in 2002, but no proper Airiel releases surfaced until 2003, when they initiated a series of Winks & Kisses EPs, each of which included one epic approaching (or exceeding) the ten-minute mark. After being individually released by Clairecords between July 2003 and June 2004, all four were issued as a limited CD box set at the end of the year.
A self-titled EP was issued by Sonicbaby Records in 2005, and Airiel toured across the East Coast of America. Their debut album, The Battle of Sealand, appeared on Highwheel Records in 2007. Recorded by the lineup of Wrenn, guitarist Chris DeBrizzio, bassist/vocalist Cory Osborne, and drummer John Rungger, the album featured a collaboration with electro-shoegaze producer Ulrich Schnauss, who programmed skittery beats on the song "Sugar Crystals." Airiel toured Europe with Schnauss in 2008, although Osborne and Rungger had left the band by this point.
Airiel resurfaced on Shelflife Records in 2012 with the Kid Games EP, recorded by Wrenn along with Andrew Marrah and Chase Johnson, and sporting a more synth-heavy sound than the band's prior work. In 2015, Winks & Kisses was released as a triple LP, including three new bonus remixes. The 2016 single "Cloudburst" preceded Airiel's second proper full-length, Molten Young Lovers, which arrived in 2017. For this album, the group's lineup consisted of Wrenn, Marrah, bassist Matt Blanton, and drummer Spencer Kiss. ~ Paul Simpson