Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm François Rabelais and I approve this message

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.


Demeur said...

And like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football I fell for it once again. I should have known by the looks of that winter scene that nails on a chalkboard were to follow. Just call me a blockhead.

Randal Graves said...

You should know by now the odds of scoring some metal 'round these parts.

Jim H. said...

Blow, don't rake. Heh.

Nice post. New world for me.

Tom Harper said...

Nice sounds. Oregon, huh. I would have guessed Scandinavia or Eastern Europe.

okjimm said...

Demeur... Blockhead. :) I have learned through the years that one can not trust Randalz "Long and Winding Road" musical discourses. There is no "Help" no "Satisfaction" no "Stairway to Heaven"......but at least it wasn't a Hockey post. ;)

Chef Cthulhu said...

I think I've mentioned before that I never could get beyond speed-metal and into these long, death-metal epics. But this does have redeeming qualities. Chief among them, it ends.

Beach Bum said...

suburbanites, please don't rake

Yeah I wish I could skip the whole thing, but the Nazi home owners association will get mad if I don't at some point.

But like Jim H. said, I'll pull out the blower, like 7:00am Sunday morning.

Randal Graves said...

jim, yikes, that's even worse. Hell with banning CIA torture, ban leaf blowers!

tom, they definitely have that wintry, Scandinavian vibe whether playing electric or acoustic. I highly recommend picking up their stuff.

okjimm, don't make me send Tie Domi to your house.

chef, wuss. :)

Same band. Not strictly bone crunching, but genre-mixing in the best tradition.

BB, alright, in *that* case, I would have to lend my support to gasoline-powered leaf blowers.

Susan Tiner said...

That band is God awful.

Around here, we'd give anything if people would rake instead of using the cursed leaf blowers.

Dr. Zaius said...

For a minute there I thought that the phrases in italics gave some explanation or meaning to the rest of the post. Alas, no...