One ought to take time digging through these aural works & find the goodness that lies not only on the obvious surface, but below. Allegorical? Hidden meanings that aren't there? Pshaw & harrumph, respectively. Oregon's finest -- sorry, Ducks -- gift another masterwork with Marrow of the Spirit where it's nigh pointless separating track from track as each is a vital part of the whole, a biosphere of which the listener is also a part.
Neither the percussive, acoustic coil of The Mantle nor the immediate riff cascade of Ashes Against the Grain are what commences album number four, but a short, subdued almost-field recording of nature, They Escaped the Weight of Darkness, punctuated with somber cello measures.
I took this photo last week of the moon through the trees (aside: hey, for once, the graininess works), stepping into our backyard & onto a bed of leaves (aside deux: suburbanites, please don't rake; you lose a little ambient something) that crackled & dispersed with each movement of my feet, the insect world in counterpoint before the mechanical rudely intruded with the hum of a passing car. Even then, such transient sounds fold themselves into this construct misleadingly named silence. This tableau, found in the introductory track, transfers its analog, granular quality into the blasting blackness of Into the Painted Grey & her turns of quiet, despairing phrase, taxonomies of melancholy found in John Haughm's harsh vocals & in clean, labyrinthine grime, 'I can feel the era slipping into oblivion/no longer grasping the texture.'
Plucked from the maze of trees, the spaces between sound crash & recede with the breeze, as rising & falling feet in hill & ravine, crumbling sidewalk & concrete road, The Watcher's Monolith. Go on, take a break from plastic hurly-burly & walk through a forest. It speaks. Watch the sky on a violent autumn evening, find some place outside of the day-to-day. No musical Luddite manifesto, no call for stark devolution but songs for those who still dig the earth & the green things, the white of winter, the black of a storm. Romanticism with a capital R, a bridge spanning ten, twelve, seventeen minutes, you'll find no apologies here.
Guitars gurgle in an underwater reverberation before piercing the drawn-out glass of Black Lake Nidstång, strings shudder, anguished vocal, eerie bass echo, fretwork & chimes entwine in a darker mirror image of all things, the midsection of Mott the Hoople's Half Moon Bay, floating over the drifting leitmotif of the song & the album itself, the centrality of the journey. Forget Joseph Campbell, for this isn't heroic, isn't redemption, but losing yourself in the moment, drinking it all in. Sadly, a lost art.
Ghosts of the Midwinter Fires holds the essence, the ghost if you will *groan* of the band's debut closer, with a wink & a nod to the triumph latent within conscious disconnection, the song mirroring how effortlessly such a world comes into being out of such disparate musical elements. Again, that moment, that healthy, renewing separation from the manufactured. The slow motion instrumental echo of past sense, of memory crossing the liminal a shade before the seven-minute mark to participate in the marche funebrè of To Drown, a denouement that's almost a bit anti-climatic, especially with, ironically, the memory of the powerful catharsis of the last album's Bloodbirds still fresh.
Yes, new skinsman & rarities god Aesop Dekker's work is the most energetic heard on an Agalloch LP to date. The production's of a rawer air, no six bill Fostex four-track basement job, but organic, roots, the dirt, mud, experience, existence. The peaks aren't as immediately discernible as on past works (Limbs, You Were But A Ghost In My Arms, Pantheist) but the visceral, unifying thread is present. Tune in, turn on, drop out.