The first lineup announcement for the inaugural Days of Darkness festival came through last month and brought with it confirmation that the autumnal two-dayer presented by the crew behind the Maryland Deathfest wasn’t screwing around either on scale — Neurosis headlining — or in scope, bring on board multi-genre acts from across a swath of underground styles. Well, the lineup is now complete. Om join Neurosis as headliners, and Cirith Ungol act as classic metal counterpart to the previously-announced Manilla Road near the top of the bill. Sizable additions like Captain Beyond, and Boris join the likes of Warning, Dälek and Elder — whose new album will be out by then — and Bongripper and Unearthly Trance find further tonal-onslaught companionship with word that Cavity will take part. All in all it looks like a pretty fucking good show.
Tickets are on sale now, and though they might not go before Maryland Deathfest proper, held in May as ever, I would be surprised if there were any left by the time Oct. 28 and 29 gets here. I’d think Neurosis or Om could probably sell out Rams Head on their own, never mind with the stellar support cast they’re both given across the Saturday and Sunday event. Bringing in Om has me wondering if maybe they’ll have a new record release coming up — that’s a long trip to the East Coast — but that might just be wishful thinking on my part. Either way, they’ll of course find welcome once they hit the stage, because they’re Om, and only jerks don’t like Om. That’s science. It’s proven.
Here’s the poster and the lineup as posted by the fest, as well as the link to get tickets:
Maryland Deathfest presents: Days of Darkness Festival
October 28 & 29, 2017
@ Rams Head Live, Baltimore, MD
Saturday, October 28th: Neurosis Manilla Road Captain Beyond Perturbator Elder Cavity Dance with the Dead Dälek Computer Magic Crypt Sermon Alms
Sunday, October 29th: Om Cirith Ungol Warning Boris GosT Unearthly Trance Le Matos Bongripper Magic Sword Night Demon Asthma Castle
Posted in Reviews on February 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Four years is a long time between Arbouretum records. Their debut was released in 2004, but between 2007 and 2013, the Baltimore-based purveyors of fuzzed-out heavy psych-folk issued a full-length album every other year and had other offerings besides — a prolific run that capped with Coming out of the Fog (review here), which was their fifth LP depending on what one actually counts. In 2015, guitarist/vocalist Dave Heumann offered the solo outing, Here in the Deep (review here), but as Song of the Rose arrives via Thrill Jockey, the meld of different styles that seems to come so naturally from Arbouretum — like something so obvious that somehow no one else is able to say — reminds the listener how much it and they have been missed.
Comprised of eight songs and running just about 40 minutes flat, Song of the Rose offers ripeness in its melodicism, resonance in its emotionality and heft in its patient, organic rhythmic rollout. Songs like the title-track, opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Call upon the Fire” and the rambling, organ-laced “Dirt Trails” prove hypnotic and memorable in kind, and the arrangements between Heumann, bassist Corey Allender, drummer Brian Carey and keyboardist Matthew Pierce weave fluidly into and around Americana, indie, folk and heavy psychedelia with a grace just about unmatched in the US. That’s not a slag on anyone, but meant to emphasize how particular Arbouretum‘s sound is and how entirely it is their own. With Song of the Rose, they slide back into it with apparent ease after the relatively long absence and manage, as ever, to bring it forward to a new stage of itself.
While I believe their growth is natural in the sense of coming from an ongoing maturity of songwriting and human experience — as opposed to their sitting down and saying, “We need to make this album different from the last one” — it’s nonetheless a key aspect of what they do, and it’s easy to imagine that if the songs didn’t “feel right” on those terms to the band, Song of the Rose simply wouldn’t exist. Maybe that’s just a result of reading into the gradual way in which “Call upon the Fire” opens; its strumming foundation around which a torrent of consuming fuzz builds and recedes so that it ends after a crashing apex with quiet acoustic guitar and keys, chilling the listener out en route to the gentle beginning of “Comanche Moon,” much bolstered by the warmth in tone of Allender‘s bass as captured by producer Steve Wright at Wrightway Studio and mixed by Kyle Spence (Harvey Milk).
As he will again on closer “Woke up on the Move” and as he has many times before, Heumann takes on the role of storyteller in the lyrics of “Comanche Moon,” and he and the instruments trade back and forth giving each other the space to let that play out. The subsequent title-track, louder, more immediate in its roll but still unrushed in meter, is more descriptive for its 6:23, and reportedly intended as the third in a trilogy behind “Song of the Nile” from 2011’s The Gathering and “Song of the Pearl” from the 2009 outing of the same name. Together with “Call upon the Fire” (7:23) and “Comanche Moon” (5:59), it makes an opening salvo of the three longest pieces on Song of the Rose. It may or may not be where the vinyl side A ends, but the takeoff into jamming that ensues feels like a culmination of the record so far in its buzz-toned lead and refusal to return to the chorus as it otherwise might, its affect all the more filled out with the Pierce‘s keys, which are the last remaining element after the guitar fades out, clearing the ground for the start of the shorter and more straight-ahead “Absolution Song.”
Around cycles of starts and stops, “Absolution Song” seems to find the resolution it seeks in landscapes, tambourine and woodblock-infused push and twice-over dispersal into pure shimmer. It’s the only piece on Song of the Rose under four minutes long, and carries a spiritualistic feel, but is a standout in rhythm and melody alike, Heumann‘s lines backed by a deep-mixed, swirling echo. The subsequent “Dirt Trails,” as the title hints, is something of a momentary return to ground before the soaring “Fall from an Eyrie” takes flight and the 93-second interlude jam “Mind Awake, Body Asleep” leads into the finale of “Woke up on the Move” with a key-led, space-minded progression. With “Dirt Trails,” it’s Arbouretum‘s folkish side that comes more into focus. Nothing too flashy — some guitar effects for balance with the organ — but the intent in placement seems to be to reorient the audience ahead of “Fall from an Eyrie,” on which Carey‘s snare, Heumann‘s guitar and Pierce‘s keys all seem geared toward building as much tension as possible leading into each chorus while Allender holds it all together on bass.
I don’t know if it’s fair to call “Fall from an Eyrie” the apex of Song of the Rose, but as the suitably-airy guitar solo arrives just before three and a half minutes in amid the wash of keys and the forward rhythmic drive, it sure feels like it. To their credit, while they could probably ride that part another four or five minutes into an overblown payoff, they don’t, and “Mind Awake, Body Asleep” fades in with its synth and basslines working over the drums to quickly transition between “Fall from an Eyrie” and “Woke up on the Move,” which again sees the return of Heumann-as-narrator and ends the collection with a sense of flow that, though it doesn’t really need to, summarizes much of what’s come before it in its soft approach and emergent rumble, which leads to a surprisingly noisy finish of crashes and feedback.
They don’t go fully into abrasion or anything like that, but they make it plain they’ve hit the endpoint for the album when they do, and the howling guitar noise at the close is definitely a part of that. Still, “Woke up on the Move” is drawn together with the rest of Song of the Rose through the distinctive clarity that is a hallmark of Arbouretum‘s work. After four years, to find that intact is a relief, but to have the band offer not only an execution of form in their return but a genuine developmental step feels like more than one might reasonably ask in its delivery. As ever, Arbouretum invite the listener to get lost and to find, and the joy in so doing on Song of the Rose is unmistakable.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Expand or die, right? Certainly the idea isn’t a new one for the crew behind the famed Maryland Deathfest, which already has brand extensions in place in California and the Netherlands, but the newly-announced Days of Darkness Festival — for which early-bird tickets are on sale circa now — feels immediately different. Set for late October at the Rams Head Live, for one thing, it takes place in Baltimore, the home-base of the Maryland Deathfest itself. Second, it abandons the “Deathfest” title, in favor of the less genre-adherent “Darkness.” Third, its lineup seems way more of the doomed/post-metal/psychedelic/classic metal variety than any of the extremity one might find at the other Deathfest-promoted fests. These things make Days of Darkness 2017 distinct. The fact that Neurosis headline and Warning will appear playing Watching from a Distance in its entirety — something they’re also doing at Roadburn this April — means they mean business.
Compared to the core Maryland Deathfest, which runs four days at this point, the two for Days of Darkness feels a bit like testing the waters, and indeed that may be exactly what’s happening, but while a number of heavy festivals have popped up and disappeared after one shot — whither thou, Planet Caravan? — far fewer have the kind of production machine behind them as this one. Accordingly, one looks forward with great anticipation to seeing how Days of Darkness 2017 continues to develop its lineup and set itself apart not only from the central Deathfest brand, but also the slew of heavy fests in what seems to still be a surging US sphere.
More to come, in other words. Here’s the initial word in the meantime:
Maryland Deathfest presents: Days of Darkness Festival
October 28 & 29, 2017 @ Rams Head Live – Baltimore, MD
Lineup: Neurosis Warning (Watching from a Distance set) Manilla Road Elder GosT Unearthly Trance Dälek Bongripper
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan
You should’ve seen me the other day. I was a pouting mess. Could’ve cried. Thinking to myself there was a new Arbouretum record that had been announced for nearly two weeks and I’d missed out. “No one told me,” and all sad. I felt really down about it, because the truth is I still go back to their last album, 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here), on the regular. I can’t even tell you how many phone-culls it has survived where other records have been removed to make use of the limited storage space. It’s an album I refuse to travel without. Not that the band would know that, or it would matter, but it mattered to me that the news had come through and I hadn’t gotten to see it. I even dug frontman Dave Heumann‘s solo record, Here in the Deep (review here), when that came out last year. I’ve been dying for news on a new Arbourteum.
Well, here’s me getting caught up. Thrill Jockey will issue Song of the Rose — the much-anticipated new studio full-length from Baltimore’s Arbouretum — on March 24. Preorders are available now. No audio yet. Presumably some will start to surface soon. Needless to say, I’ve got an eye out.
Details from the preorder page:
Arbouretum – Song of the Rose
Arbouretum has been called “the best of the millennial classic rock bands, a guitar-fuzzed powerhouse.” The band, founded by guitarist and vocalist Dave Heumann, effortlessly weaves its melodies and guitar solos with often hypnotic rhythms of bassist Corey Allender and drummer Brian Carey around the deliberate keyboard of Matthew Pierce to lift the vocals. The results are a full sounds delivered with a striking sense of intimacy. Throughout their time together, the Baltimore-based band have been praised for their ability to weave elaborate vocal lines, and guitar solos that often unravel into extended improvisation, but never with as much finesse as on Song of the Rose. In less practiced hands, these ideas could easily fall into contrivance, but on Song of the Rose, Arbouretum use these elements to perfect their craft of storytelling in song, both lyrically and sonically.
Arbouretum recorded Song of the Rose with Steve Wright at Wrightway Studios. While previous records were recorded in a matter of days, Song of the Rose took weeks. Attention to production details augment their time-tested emphasis on capturing the energy of performance. Song of the Rose is the first time the band has mixed with Kyle Spence at his studios in Athens Ga. (Kurt Vile, Luke Roberts, Harvey Milk.)
At their root, the songs and compositions of Song of the Rose is the concept of balance. As is true for the movements of Tai Chi, of which Dave Heumann is an avid practitioner, each motion both musical and lyrical has an equal but opposite motion, that works together harmoniously. “Woke Up On The Move” pores over nature’s beauty as much as it heeds the warning of humankind’s destructive potential. The variations that result from the constant push and pull throughout Song of the Rose make Arbouretum’s music as arresting as it is thoughtful. The lyrical imagery makes it masterful.
Arbouretum’s lyrics explore elements of philosophy, mysticism, redemption, and the implications of human “progress”. Songs are written in poetic form as Heumann, Arbouretum’s lyricist, prefers stories remain abstract and open rather than a more typical storytelling format, all within a more traditional song structure. Titular track “Song of the Rose” completes a trilogy of songs from past records, calling back to “Song of the Nile” and “Song of the Pearl,” which have their roots in examining Taoist and Gnostic mythic traditions. Fittingly “Rose” is also a nod to Heumann’s ancestor Richard Lovelace, a 17th century poet who penned “The Rose.” The driving “Absolution Song,” featuring the albums only instrumental guest appearance by Drums of Life, is a contemplation of the idea of writing and thereby absolving oneself of all wrongdoings, through the creative act, in this case, using poetic imagery. Arbouretum music takes these philosophical ideas and transforms them into a sonic experience that is at once contemplative and emotionally affecting.
Tracklisting: 1. Call Upon the Fire 2. Comanche Moon 3. Song of the Rose 4. Absolution Song 5. Dirt Trails 6. Fall From an Eyrie 7. Mind Awake, Body Asleep 8. Woke Up on the Move
Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
[Click play above to stream Mangog’s Mangog Awakens in full. Album is out Jan. 9 on Argonauta Records.]
For those off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, Maryland doom must seem like a curious animal. It’s angry, but restrained, sad, but grooved, melodic and still weighted down by a particular disaffection. Over the last three decades, it’s also become one of the longest-lasting and prolific regional sources for heavy output, and as Mangog‘s Argonauta Records debut album, Mangog Awakens, demonstrates, it remains a sound that is growing and shaping itself. As rigid as its tenets can sometimes seem in post-The Obsessed riffing and Sabbathian loyalism, there’s room in the Chesapeake State for a breadth of atmospheres, and Mangog take advantage of this while staying grounded in deeply human experiences of loss and betrayal on “Ab Intra” and “A Tongue Full of Lies,” and still having a bit of fun in a cut like “Meld,” which from its opening lines, “Your thoughts to my thoughts/My mind to your mind,” through the inclusion of “It is a good day to die” in the chorus was bound to win over my Star Trek-loving heart.
Granted that cut is a long way from “Walk in my shoes/Feel the abuse” and “Chase the dream then you die” from “Modern Day Concubine,” but it fits sound-wise with Mangog‘s straightforward, semi-metallized take, marked out by the rumbling basslines of Darby Cox (Major Company), the thickened riffing of Bert Hall, Jr. (also bass in Beelzefuzz, ex-Revelation, the snarl in the vocals of Myke Wells (ex-Final Answer) and the dead-ahead push drumming of Mike Rix (ex-Iron Man). In any case, a bit of thematic variety doesn’t hurt, especially when so much of Mangog Awakens basks in the emotionally grim.
Welcome to doom, chief. I’ve said many times over the years that repetition and that grueling feeling that sometimes emerges from bands in the style are key markers for doom, and Mangog do a fair bit to play into that, but from Mangog Awakens‘ opening salvo of “Time is a Prison,” the aforementioned “Meld” and “Ab Intra,” they seem intent likewise on finding a niche for themselves within the sphere’s overarching lack of pretense. “Meld” is shorter, but “Time is a Prison” hits seven minutes and “Ab Intra” tops eight, so there’s an apparent drive toward immersing the listener quickly in the album’s moody vibes, and if they haven’t already done it by then, the creeping start of “Ab Intra” assures the task is complete. Compare that to the ticking clock that begins the lumbering “Time is a Prison” and the sounding alarm at the end that still jars every time I hear it and Mangog are clearly pushing deeper as they go, but both “Time is a Prison” and “Ab Intra” rely on strong hooks to help get their point across, and that root of classic-style songcraft is important as the rest of the album continues to build fro this beginning.
“Ab Intra” is one of the three songs from Mangog‘s 2015 debut EP, Daydreams Within Nightmares, to be included on the full-length alongside “Of Your Deceit” immediately following and “Daydreams Within Nightmares,” placed here as the penultimate track before “Eyes Wide Shut” closes, but there’s no discernible interruption in flow between previously-released material, despite the band having worked with a slew of engineers — Jason Blevins and Mike Franklin, Mike Engel, and Drew Mazurek — on the recordings. The crawl-paced plod of “Of Your Deceit” might be preaching to the converted, but one wouldn’t accuse it at all of being incongruous in doing so. If nothing else, Mangog Awakens makes plain that the four-piece know the sound they’re shooting for.
Fine. The question then becomes whether they get there. From “Of Your Deceit” into the sub-three-minute tempo kick of “Into Infamy” and onward to the chug of “Modern Day Concubine,” the answer would seem to be yes. These are not rookie players, and while this is their first outing together in this incarnation, they sound comfortable in the mode of expression, going so far as to have Wells branch out a bit into a more rhythmic vocal patterning on “Modern Day Concubine” with just a hint of growl layered in. “A Tongue Full of Lies” offers more languid flow after that aggro moment, but has a build of its own that comes to a head in its second half, leading into the more upbeat shove of “Daydreams Within Nightmares,” the lyrics of which nod toward political turmoil — one might say “Into Infamy” did so earlier as well; both working in a general way relatively open to interpretation — as a choice riff churns around a hook that seems to reorient the listener moving into Mangog Awakens‘ final statement.
That comes with “Eyes Wide Shut,” which at 5:41 doesn’t touch “Time is a Prison” or “Ab Intra” in terms of runtime, but in its layered vocal harmonies — either Wells on his own or Wells with backing from Hall — and ultra-slow initial rollout punctuated by Rix‘s snare, it’s nodding enough to give the impression of being longer than it actually is and atmospheric after the fashion of classic Pentagram. Once again, Mangog bring their own stamp to the proceedings, adding a speedier, metallized bridge in the second half of the track before returning to the lumber to end out, not quite paying off the full record, but at very least assuring their audience there’s more to come. That may well be true, and at this point one might only speculate where Mangog might go after this “awakening.” What the band establishes, though, is the core of songwriting that will hopefully continue to be fleshed out from here and a strong awareness of where they’re coming from that will allow them to grow as they move forward.
Call it a flair for the epic, but as Baltimorean five-piece Blood Mist make their debut Feb. 10 on Grimoire Records with their self-titled five-track EP, the pattern of classic metal grandiosity and swinging-mug heavy rock groove can’t be missed. Across the 25-minute outing, the relative newcomers show marked cohesion of purpose in taking cues from early, pre-self-parody Danzig as well as Candlemass, but even with those names as core influences, I wouldn’t necessarily tag them as only being a doom band. Certainly those elements are there, as one can hear by the chugging slowdown that finishes opener “Burn the Trees” as much as the foreboding guitar and cymbal wash interplay that begins the subsequent “Blood Mist,” but guitarists Kevin Considine and Nick Jewett, vocalist Matt Casella, bassist Scott Brenner and drummer John de Campos (also artwork) pick up into near-High on Fire onslaught later in their eponymous cut. With the sense of drama that Casella brings to his approach, in places calling to mind Scott Reagers as well as the likes of Witchfinder General and others from the NWOBHM, everything Blood Mist do on this offering just feels that much bigger.
Blood Mist hits its most fervent nod in righteously-titled centerpiece “Goblin Overload,” pulling back on the tempo, upping the fuzz and giving Casella and the lead guitar all the more room to flesh out what were already impressive performances, some of the shoutier vocals recalling King Giant, but ultimately winding up less burly as they set up a transition into speedier fare circa the four-minute mark, de Campos taking point in pushing the song to its break, when it snaps back into a mid-paced revisit of its chorus to end with what seems to be a well-earned big rock finish. Dueling leads start the shorter, faster “As the Crow,” which highlights its hook as it courses through like something that might’ve opened a Dio-era Sabbath record en route to what seems to be a companion piece in closer “My Lord.” The finale is the only song included under four minutes long, but the impression it leaves is brash and substantial in kind, setting up its last minute as a build into a final thrust that comes topped with more stellar guitar soloing and righteous crash for an ending that, to be perfectly honest, probably could’ve ridden out its groove for another two or three minutes at least if it wanted to. Maybe next time.
Take that “maybe next time” as evidence of a desire to hear more from Blood Mist. The band treads on some dangerous ground in providing a next-gen take on traditionalism of sound coming from where they do — Baltimore has some very definite ideas about what makes a doom or otherwise heavy record — but frankly, that’s how innovation happens. Like all of Grimoire‘s fare, the EP was recorded by Noel Mueller, who gives ample space to each instrument (vocals included) while bringing them together all the more as a unit priming themselves to develop the potential to capture hearts and minds of heshers and weirdos alike. As with many early releases, debut EPs, etc., it’s hard to guess where Blood Mist might go from here — “Blood Mist” and “My Lord” are very different tracks, may have been written over a greater span of time, and so on, and while they sound like they’re all-in from the start of “Burn the Trees,” there’s yet no context for assessing what their sonic intent will be over the longer term. However, Blood Mist excite with the possibility of what their metallically-tinged heavy could become on this initial collection and already showcase a will to distinguish themselves from their surroundings. Do it loudly enough and someone’s bound to pay attention.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting “Goblin Overload” as a track premiere ahead of Blood Mist‘s Feb. 10 arrival. Please find it on the player below, followed by the release announcement courtesy of Grimoire, and enjoy:
Formed in 2015 and hitting the stage in March of 2016 Blood Mist has been on a tear of performances sharing the stage with acts such as Valient Thorr, Black Lung, Gateway to Hell and others. This culminated in Blood Mist being invited to record with local metal label Grimiore Records and producing their self titled debut release with label head Noel Mueller.
The self-titled 5 song EP features meaty, stoner rock riffs, hard hitting drumming, ripping guitar solos, and over-the-top theatrical vocals. “Blood Mist” is only the beginning of the epic tale set to unfold. What evil power birthed the blood mist? Who will survive the roaming, rolling cloud of madness? The answers are found in the pounding, guitar driven, hazed musical metal maelstroms crafted by the now battle tested Blood Mist. Don’t miss out on the first chapter as we journey into the thick fog of destruction.
Grimoire Records has set an Oct. 21 release date for a new split titled Vortex 6 from instrumental outfits Thought Eater and Iron Jawed Guru. Each band will present four tracks recorded, as all of Grimoire‘s releases are, by label honcho Noel Mueller, and each band has tied their tracks to a theme born out of classic cult sci-fi. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say what movies in particular, so I won’t give anything away.
In the case of Baltimore trio Thought Eater, this split marks their first outing and finds them somewhere between more aggressive chug and engaging depth of tone. They lead off on the first half and provide a tight but still grooving approach, their “Crushing Metaphysical Crisis” shifting easily from semi-blastbeats into more open fluidity and demonstrating a clear lack of respect for the boundaries of genre.
You might recall West Virginia’s Iron Jawed Guru offered up their debut EP, Mata Hari (review here) through Grimoire in the early hours of 2016. Relatively quick though it was, their straightforward approach to Appalachian-style riffy instrumentalism left an impression for sure, and here the duo tease a bit of melody in in their sound, showcasing early growth as they move forward.
Right now, if you play your cards right — and by that I mean click the player below — you can stream premieres of “Crystal Maze” from Thought Eater and “Emerald Seer” from Iron Jawed Guru.
Preorders for Vortex 6 are up as of today from Grimoire, who also had the following:
Thought Eater / Iron Jawed Guru split “Vortex 6” – 10/21/16 Grimoire Records
Thought Eater is a brand new 3-piece instrumental band from Baltimore, MD, featuring a 12-string bass through a big muff. This monstrosity is a standard bass with 3 of everything, producing a bizarre double-vision effect on every note. Uniquely hypnotic High on Fire riffs are woven into angular odd-time compositions reminiscent of Intronaut and Zebulon Pike.
Douglas Griffith – guitar Darin Tambascio – bass guitar Bobby Murray – drums
Iron Jawed Guru, an instrumental power duo from West Virginia, is back with their second Grimoire release of 2016. True to Mata Hari form, epic compositions reminiscent of Kyuss and Russian Circles. They too employ a novel technique to thicken up their sound, running their guitar through an array of different amps and octavers to create a mammoth wall of sound with a paradoxically clean edge.
[Click play above to stream Darsombra’s Polyvision in full. Album is out Sept. 9 on Translation Loss.]
Last year, Baltimorean experimentalist duo Darsombra went on tour. Pretty much for the whole year. They played well over 100 shows on what they dubbed the “Three Legged Monster” tour — it took place over the course of three separate legs — and they played plenty of other shows besides. That nomadic existence seems to feed into the sense of revelry and freedom that one finds in listening to Polyvision, the two-piece’s latest studio full-length for Translation Loss Records and first since 2012’s Climax Community. Or at least that’s easy enough to read into the outing’s two extended, multi-movement component tracks, “Underworld” (21:45) and “From Insects… to Aliens (The Worms Turn)” (22:31).
Guitarist/keyboardist Brian Daniloski and keyboardist/vocalist/visual effects creator Ann Everton bring a clear sense of composition to both pieces, but there’s an undercurrent of improvisation atop which the building layers of samples, loops, synth and effects create their swirl, and where so much of drone/noise is hell-bent on post-apocalyptic desolation, the creation of all-gray spaces, Darsombra offer a full spectrum of sonic color across Polyvision. Moreover, there are moments where they sound truly and genuinely playful in what they do, Daniloski‘s guitar or the keys winding around celebratory figures in one track or the other, bringing about a spontaneous feeling moment of arrival — “We’re here now and isn’t it great here?” — that also would seem to fit with the presented-as-being-completely-on-a-whim turn to nomadic living that the band made in 2015. Have drone, will travel, will be glad to end up wherever.
That’s a simplification of the mindset, obviously, but the underlying point is that Polyvision feels unafraid to embrace joy as it moves through its complex and ritualized-feeling soundscapes. Not that it doesn’t also have its foreboding stretches, as any even vaguely drone release with a low tone will — soundtracks have conditioned us to hear things a certain way, even subconsciously — but though its two titles are somewhat dark in their themes, with the creepy vibe and strangeness of the construction of “From Insects… to Aliens (The Worms Turn)” and an “Underworld” traditionally being a place not known for its pleasant afternoons, it’s not long into Polyvision before Daniloski and Everton are exploring colorful, rich textures.
It’s still fair to call Darsombra instrumental, but vocals do play a large role in setting the vibe, and that happens relatively quickly in the first movement of “Underworld”; voices almost choral loop in with undulating volume swells, fading in and out again, moving toward an end just before the five-minute mark where all goes quiet before the next wave starts with what seems to be both their voices leading to the establishing of a slow, patient rhythmic guitar figure around which the keys and a brightly progressive and extended guitar lead unfold. It’s here, making its way toward and past the midpoint of “Underworld” that Polyvision first and perhaps most effectively conveys the joy at root in its creation. It finds itself in a bouncing, almost child-like section of fuzzed-out keys and guitar — still with that original rhythm beneath; it doesn’t leave just yet — that receives due exploration before giving way to rolling waves, which is how “Underworld” ends. At the ocean. I’d assume that’s a field recording from the band, rather than a keyboard sample, but never fully knows. In either case, it’s hypnotic and signifies the kind of perpetualness Darsombra are looking to convey in their material as well as a peaceful moment to collect oneself before moving onto the second, longer track.
“From Insects… to Aliens (The Worms Turn)” finds itself building layers of proggy guitar, more active, more intense, with washes of cymbal added for effect in the first couple minutes. A swirling solo takes hold and winds its way into another seemingly simplistic progression around eight minutes in, but it gives way to lower rumbling undertones, if only momentarily before the guitar surges forward again. Though only part of Darsombra‘s broad approach, Daniloski‘s lead work isn’t to be undervalued. Aside from being technically proficient, it brings a rare spontaneity to what might commonly be thought of as a drone or noise record, neither of which is a style known for working off the cuff, adding to the atmosphere of positivity and basking in the spirit of an apparently ceaseless creative drive. Just past 15 minutes, Everton begins a vocal loop that is ultimately the introduction to the final movement of “From Insects… to Aliens (The Worms Turn)” and after a final crash of guitar, she’s backed by noise that indeed sounds like and may or may not be bugs, like crickets at night something from the forest.
That Darsombra would choose to end both of Polyvision‘s cuts with nature sounds — granted in the closer the human voice is still more prominent in its long fadeout — and one can’t help but wonder in light of the album’s title if the band isn’t trying to see multiple sides, and trying to show their audience multiple sides, of how humans interact with the world around them. Of course that’s speculation on my part, but if you take anything from it, take it as a sign of the depth of the evocation that the duo enact over the course of the album’s 44 minutes. If what they gleaned from those 100-plus days on the road together are the lessons they seem to be teaching here, then their time was well spent.