One listen to the first song ("Amanda in the Clouds") on Chicago shoegaze combo Panda Riot's debut album, Northern Automatic Music, is enough to see that they studied their My Bloody Valentine records very closely, with time thrown in to absorb some lessons from the Cocteau Twins as well. From the Valentines they took the glide guitars and basic songwriting techniques, from the Twins they took glittering atmospheres. Though the template is well worn and many bands have used it to make really lousy records, the quartet does a fine job of creating a wall of sound that is impressively enveloping, but also bolstered by dynamic shifts and livened up by the occasional surprise (like piano dropping in here and there). They show an impressive level of craft and imagination within the tight shoegaze format, never allowing themselves to sound stale or merely nostalgic. Songs like "Black Pyramids" and "Mtwn Glass" have a surging beauty that a band just looking to rip off a sound couldn't easily knock off. The one place the record stumbles a little is in the vocal department, not that Rebecca Scott's vocals are bad; the opposite is true. She sounds perfectly fine, but she needs to be buried deeper in the mix. Otherwise, it's terribly hard to be swept away by the undulating guitars and woozy tempos when you can hear exactly what Scott is saying. Fix this on the next record and everything will be better, maybe even great. As it is, Northern Automatic Music is a fine debut that fans of shoegaze music should find quite enjoyable.