Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sarin- Burial Dream

A lot of things both defy me, and, depressingly enough, confirm horrible things for me. For a pertinent example- the notion that certain types of guitar distortion denote "heavy". I think, to myself, aw, c'mon folks, this was recorded digitally, with software treatments, so the distortion is just an effect, and no more so, nor less than modulations or time-based echoes and reverbs. But, of course, I suspect it's because we are conditioned to think of a scooped distortion sound indicates volume and rectified gain stages, and therefore, the province of young, rebellious men who express themselves with massive amplification to indicate their brazenness.
So, while I understand that Sarin were influenced by Godflesh, and Isis, but that's not really the way I hear it. I hear it as Calexio meets deftones, or Morricone meets screamo. Ultimately, whether distortion or echo, there are no truly un-effected guitars, and the tempos are kept deliberate so as to make the melodies seem more spare.
So, that brings us to why I like this- it's really very spare and minimalist, even given that maximalism of 7 minute songs, and so many effects- it's very zen, and contemplative, even with all the great, throaty screams and pounding rhythms. The amount of dissonance in the passing chords and the shifts between echoey single note lines, and saturated chorded riffs is like the natural fissures and erosion in a mountain creek.
I realize this may not be the reaction the band is looking for. They may wish for me to talk about it using words like "Brutal" "heavy" "bludgeoning" and so forth, and I'm sure others will- but, again, from my perspective, it seems deep, sonorous and pretty in a very stern and austere way. This means I dig it, a lot. Noise meets metal, and goes post, but the whole thing is reflective, and introspective, like a noise rock Old Man Gloom. Good stuff, and they seem to know that P90 Jazzmasters mixed with newer model Les Pauls always produces a deep and authoritative sound. A good choice for a snowy, gloomy, cold winter. Think of it as Doom, for a poetic sort....

Monday, March 2, 2015

Swervedriver- I Wasn't Born to Lose You

So, I got this today, one day early. I've always liked Swervedriver, but I can't say I've loved them. Until, now, that is. They're playing at a godawful site in DC within a few weeks, and I might bite the bullet, and see them.
See, Swervedriver got grouped in with the Shoegazers, and I can see why. The vocals are very pretty, and lend a much more mellow feel to the music than the guitars lay down, but they make for pretty bad shoegazers, and the result of that, for me, has always been that they're too easy to dismiss ( Except for "Mezcal Head" which is flat-out awesome).
Here's the basic formula- you start with a jangle guitar, about two parts Peter Buck, one part Lee Ranaldo, then, add a soaring post punk guitar that's equal measure Bob Mould and J Mascis. Now soak the whole thing in reverb, and add stack vocal harmonies, like Crosby, Stills & Young, and The Byrds. Play and off-center beat under that, and you've got the basic idea. It's a really dense sound, and parallels what Ride and M B V were doing, but definitely is more propulsive and grounded. There are times where it gets James Williamson style heft, and Wayne Kramer style sonics, so more like "Ear Blazing" than Shoegazing.
But, as that formula might suggest, it can get a bit too top heavy with ideas, and you end up with the song sounding like 3 different demos smashed together. So, I'm not suggesting you get their whole catalog. Just this one and Mezcal Head.
See, they have stuck to the formula here, but they've been surrounded by advances in music. Grunge has turned into Stoner Rock, Shoegazing into Post Rock, and Punk into Metal- so, now, their formula has new combinations to lock into- The end result is that the jangles are more angular, and less retro, the sonic guitar heavier, and more anthemic, and the stacked vocals more baroque- excess definitely suits their style. It places them in more firmly post punk, and Stoner, and heavy traditions- this version I can hear playing on  some mythical bill with True Widow and Baroness- like Quicksand- they are straddling several worlds in the density of the guitars- but the clear, and strong production means you can separate out what they're doing, at any given moment.
So, yeah, I really like it a lot. I can see an alternative to Deathfest, in this- a festival of "Not Quite" Metal bands- Torche, Baroness, True Widow, Coliseum, Cloakroom, Ume, Pelican, Kylesa, and yes, Swervedriver....