Monday, May 14, 2012
Revenge of the Quick Ripple Bursts - Another Kind of Doom; featuring Meddlesome, Meddlesome, Meddlesome Bells, and The Valery Trails,
Gotta be honest, I got no idea what to make of this album.
Try and imagine Peter, Paul and Mary ingesting handfulls of downers, freaking out on Sabbath and being hired by some gothic Romanian church to sing funeral dirges. Or Cocteau Twins after missing out on one too many electroshock sessions. Mumford and Sons at the cemetery freaked out on really bad acid. I've seen them described as Apocalyptic Folk Metal, and I guess that works.
That's about the best I can do. Male/female vocal interplay, near-folkish, droning doom with enough heavy guitar distortion to make sure it's banned from any radio station for the duration. Way slow, way doomy, nearly catatonic, yet somehow alive. I wanted to hate this album. I really did. I didn't want to review it, but here I am.
When I was a kid, I used to listen to the Hair soundtrack all the time. It was one of the earliest albums my parents and I could agree on. For those of you who haven't heard it, it's the tale of the hippy generation coming to grips with reality. "Oh My Death" coulda been on that soundtrack, furthering the sickly demise of flower power and the summer of love. It sounds like the comedown from a bad acid trip . . .that somehow will never end. "Worried Land Blues" maintains the achingly mournful tone of the album, but reveals something else. Underneath the morbid squalor, there's some beautiful playing going on here. Heavy shit mixed with acoustics and funeral paced drumming. Within it's own constraints, the album rises and falls, pummels with unrelenting heaviness, then lightens. "Van Gogh's Blues" is, dare I say it, relatively playful.
I think there's a theme here. My guess is it's a War Protest album. but really, I have no idea.
Strangely addicting. Despondently heavy. Ultimately weirdly satisfying. Meddlesome, Meddlesome, Meddlesome Bells, my how meddlesome you really are.
The road stretches out before you. A faint light on the horizon draws you closer. Behind you, the road fades to blackness. Distant memories, aching thoughts, painful dreams. They all descend in the rearview mirror. Fading slowly out of sight. As you drive on.
That's the feeling of Ghost and Gravity, the debut album from Australian-cum-Houstonian Andrew Bower. With his brother Sean Bower (from Australian Psych rockers Grand Atlantic) on bass and Dan McNaulty on drums, The Valery Trails examines the darkened nooks and crannies of empty spaces, wide open roads, dreams passed, and dim hopes in the future ; combining the semi-folky bend of the Go-Betweens with some darker worlds of Died Pretty and a touch of his brother Sean's band, Grand Atlantic's, dreamy pop. "On The Perfume River" is a telling opener. A fluid Church-esque cloud of psychedelia holds the tone while Andrew's voice floats over and between the lyrics, like a spectre of lost days. Add some soaring female harmony vocals and this song is as hauntingly beautiful as any I'd heard in a while.
"Straight Line" is another standout, with it's gentle guitar and pulsing bass. Reminds me of a fellow Aussie Paul Kelly at work in one of his more downcast moments. Near ambient but still with a beating pulse. Textured. Evocative. There's a hint of gothic country in the songs somewhere underneath the dream. "Words Fail" hints at a longing. A mourning from the distant past. There's a familiarity here, in the guitar tone. In Andrew's plea. But it may not be familiar in terms of the song, but rather in terms of the mood. The regret.
Not an album to get the party started, but a helluva way to cool down as the night fades to darkness and the ghosts from your past come back to visit.