One of the bandleaders wound up being a renowned rock producer. Another now builds guitar effects pedals for much more famous musicians.
Mostly, though, the five Twin Cities groups featured on the new compilation album "Southeast of Saturn, Vol. 2" were forgotten. Which makes it all the cooler that Jack White's record label is now showing them some love.
"Clearly the bands on this compilation were doing what they believed in (as were we), because labels were not salivating over" this stuff, said Michael Reiter, drummer for one of those bands, the 27 Various.
The music in question is the genre widely referred to as "shoegaze" rock — loud, whirring, warped guitars, repetitive grooves, melancholic melodies and droning noise levels. Led by late-'80s U.K. bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Lush, the genre's purveyors would often perform in low light, staring down at the pedals at their feet; hence the name.
When his Third Man Records label issued the first "Southeast of Saturn" compilation in 2020, White made a point of shining a light on bands from his hometown of Detroit that specialized in this glorious noise. The collection was well enough received for the label to look further across the Midwest for similar bands, also including Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio.
In the Twin Cities, the five early-'90s acts found for the second volume include: Colfax Abbey, which boasts the collection's lead-off track, "Feel"; Shapeshifter, which has maybe its best track, "Low Profile"; Fauna, led by future ZVex effects pedal maker Zachary Vex; the little-known but impressive Ouisa, and the aforementioned 27 Various.
Fronted by future Polara leader and Flowers Studio operator Ed Ackerson — who produced albums for Motion City Soundtrack, the Jayhawks and Golden Smog before his death to cancer in 2019 — the 27 Various was probably the best known of the groups locally. It opened for shoegaze-style bands Swervedriver and the Boo Radleys at First Ave back in the day and released two full-length albums in one year (1992).
Still, Reiter echoed a complaint oft heard from the bands of that era: "It felt like we were drowned out by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and the like."
Reiter and 27 Various bassist Bart Bakker will reunite to celebrate the band and the new compilation Friday at 5 p.m. at the Electric Fetus, performing with some of Ackerson's pals including Kris Johnson (Two Harbors), Casey Virock (Porcupine) and Janey Winterbauer (the Suburbs). A listening party will also take place Saturday night with DJ Christian Fritz at Bev's Bar.
Minneapolis producer and record label vet Chris Strouth, who helped Third Man find the material, said the Twin Cities bands on the new compilation were overshadowed by the Replacements and Soul Asylum in the early-'90s scene but still made a lasting impact.
"Shoegaze in Minneapolis was an interesting era for those who weren't around for it," Strouth said.
"These bands were all sizable at the time, drawing huge crowds and national tours. This whole scene launched what became the next several waves of Twin Cities cool, from the experimental vibe of Future Perfect to the post-electro '00s all the way into the Drone Not Drones era."
Fauna bandleader Vex — whose ZVex Effects gear is used by the likes of White, J Mascis, St. Vincent and shoegaze hero Kevin Shields (MBV) — admitted he wasn't familiar with most of the other 17 groups featured on the new collection, which also includes Chicagoans Novasonic Down Hyperspace and Grimble Grumble and Detroit bands Monaural and Kiln. That unfamiliarity is all the more reason to love it, though.
"This compilation is an important time capsule for a period that produced a surprising number of wonderfully noisy pop bands in the Midwest," said Vex. "It was a fantastic decade of musical change with an explosion of creativity and rule-breaking."
Vex forever retired Fauna after the death of bassist Pete Von Grossmann 12 years ago.
None of the other bands on the new compilation are still around, either. Two of the musicians involved still play shoegazer-like psychedelic rock in newer groups: Shapeshifter's Timothy Ritter is in Muun Bato, and Reiter of 27 Various in Chatham Rise.
While he's sad his friend Ackerson isn't around to enjoy the new compilation, Reiter said he sees it as a testament to the music they made together: "You couldn't tell if you were making any waves at the time," he said.
"Waves" is exactly what it sounds like they were making with those overloaded guitars.
'Southeast of Saturn, Vol. 2'
In-store: 5 p.m. Fri., Electric Fetus, 2000 4th Av. S., Mpls., free, with 27 Various.
Listening party: 8:30 p.m. Sat., Bev's Bar, 250 3rd Av. N., Mpls., free.