Rock is Hell – RIP67
This one’s been out a little while now but has only recently landed with me. I can’t feel too much guilt: Regolith aren’t exactly the fastest of movers, however you look at it. They’ve been going for a full decade, and despite having racked up a substantial catalogue of EPs and split releases, it’s taken until now to get around to a proper album (although, arguably, 2009’s Music for Hot Air Balloon, with its three tracks spanning a full hour, would constitute an album by most people’s reckoning). Musically, they’re not exactly about pace, either, trading in crawling ambient drone of almost incomprehensible proportions.
Their debut album proper isn’t exactly about the immediate hit, the hooks or the general accessibility, either, and necessarily requires time to engage, cogitate and digest.
I is a monster work: a double album comprising just four tracks. And the sound is as immense as the album’s duration, inching toward the 80-minute mark, with each of the tracks clocking in around 20 minutes in duration. But it’s not just about the length: feel the weight. The sounds may be produced electronically using analogue synths and a vast array of effects, and Regolith may describe themselves as ‘tech freaks’, but the material is heavily steeped in the tropes of doom. Having spent my childhood living on the flight path of the takeoff / landing of the RAF Vulcans, I feel qualified to make the analogy of the drones sounding like jet engines rumble and roar, a spectrum of lower-end frequencies that focus on the ribcage, the particle-splitting noise is also more than enough to terrorize the most dulled eardrums. ‘Platinum’ sounds like my young recollections of the Falklands War. The molecule-destroying, air-shredding sound engulfs the listener; the experience is immersive and annihilative.
‘Comet Tails’ is a far sparser affair, echoed beats decaying into the void, the space between the sounds comparable to the distance between planets. Gradually, as slowly as a planet on the outer reaches of a solar system orbits its sun, a low drone begins to rise and swell, a dark, large sonorous body of sound, a black hole cruising closer with inexorable determination. The hum continues to grow until its edges begin to distort and disintegrate and bleeds into ‘Star Trails’. One benefit of hearing this in a digital format is the two tracks do run together. Of course, the downside is simply that however enormous the sound, the full enormity can only really be conveyed via the medium of vinyl, and ideally on a decent set-up with a solid amp and some fuck-off powerful speakers. It’s an album that has the capacity to make the earth move.
The sound is more than fitting for a band named after ‘a layer of loose, heterogeneous superficial material covering solid rock, which includes dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials and is present on Earth, the Moon, Mars, some asteroids, and other terrestrial planets and moons,’ and whose objective is to create ‘music on a geological scale; music of mountains, shifting like glaciers, slow and relentless processes on grand timescales’. The tracks on I are at once heavy on the ground, and beyond gravity, simultaneously tectonic in their movement and of galactic proportions.