Posts Tagged ‘atmosphere’

16th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest offering from gothy New York duo GHXST is appropriately titled. That said, ‘gloom’ carries connotations of moping, listlessness, and the six tracks here are anything but mopey or listless: the downcast, foreboding bleakness of atmosphere is matched by a crackling tension which provides a more complex dynamic.

It begins with a dark pulsating throb and a heartbeat bass drum, distant, buried. Guitar excess howls over the top before settling to a dirge-like crawl of spindly, echo-soaked twang reminiscent of latter-day Earth with hints of Neurosis-inspired post-metal. Shelly X croons and whispers, a combination of ethereal longing and menace as shoegazey washes of sound carry her disembodied voice through the clouds towards the stratosphere.

‘Ocean is a Desert’ is still atmospheric, and combines searing country an psychedelia into the mix to create something epic and immersive Moreover, it brings a greater sense of solidity and a more obvious structure as they start getting riffy and the mechanised drums kick through the murk, and things grow denser still on ‘Vaquero’, which invites comparisons to Chelsea Wolfe and Esben and the Witch at their most sonically dynamic with its brooding drama.

Samples and strings and quivering synths pave the way for the 80s-shaded synth-goth of ‘Bad Blood II’, a chilly, steely grey song that’s both graceful and tense and calls to mind Curve at their best. Single cut ride is dark and dense, taking cues from The Jesus and Mary Chain’s ‘Mushroom’ and offering hints of A Place to Bury Strangers to deliver a deep, dark buzzing throb of mid-tempo droning guitar noise, before ‘Ride’, unveiled in advance of the release, is a gritty, grainy, mess of low-slung low-end riffage swamped in reverb and dirty distortion. And that’s the appeal of GHXST right there. Music to get lost in and to drag you down into the undertow of those dark, deep currents.

AA

GHXST - Gloom

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Gizeh Records – GZH73 – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Because this is a Gizeh release, it’s beautifully presented, housed as it is in tri-fold card sleeve with subtle, minimal artwork. While the front cover is difficult to be certain about, the interior tryptic shows a panoramic landscape of a wide glacial valley somewhere in Britain. Observing the division of the fields draws the attention to the relationship between physical and human geography, and this all feels somehow fitting in the framing of Through the Sparkle.

And because this is a Gizeh release, the music it contains is delicate, haunting, sparse yet rich and contemplative. Through the Sparkle sees French ensemble Astrïd collaborate with American pianist and composer Rachel Grimes to spin seven contemporary classical compositions which massage the senses almost with the softest of touches.

Through the Sparkle is not an ersatz pastoral suite, but does keenly conjure a certain, if indefinable, natural spirit. The piano work is exquisite in its subtlety, rippling gently beneath tapering woodwind on ‘The Theme’, while on ‘Mossgrove & Seaweed’ notes lap evenly and lightly to create an air of lightness, of rapid yet serene movement, natural and fluid. It’s a flickering, shimmering sonic tension that shifts and changes shape over its duration,

Nothing about these pieces feels forced or intrusive. They’re the sonic evocations of dappled shade through leaves on a sultry, sunny August afternoon, a light breeze and the full spectrum of verdant hues – albeit with the shades muted by the distance of fading memory. There’s nothing about Through the Sparkle which feels overtly or calculatedly centred around a sense of nostalgia, but a sad, aching beauty – intangible but distinct – will inevitably evoke a certain wistfulness. And so it is that a degree of melancholy drapes itself around the hushed, rarefied atmosphere of the compositions on Through the Sparkle.

A sombre tone overarches the slow march of ‘The Herald en Masse’, which slowly breaks into an uplifting wash of rhythmic sound. It may not have quite the intensity of Swans, but it’s in the same sphere as it rises toward an almost transcendental sway.

Hesitant notes hover at the start of ‘M5’ and the rich, resonant and loamy tones call to mind latter-day Earth. Its sparse arrangement conjures a spacious atmosphere and pulls the listener’s attention into the details of the tone, texture, reverb and a sense of the individual notes breathing in the space around them.

‘Hollis’ brings a graceful melody that’s sad because it’s beautiful, while ‘M1’, the second-half counterpart to ‘M5’ – feels very much about the space between the notes as brief notational sequences cascade from a softly picked acoustic guitar before silence follows. There’s something almost flamenco about the picking of the strings and the way the notes resonate against one another.

The mournful tones of the final track, ‘Le Petit Salon’ are haunting in their understated discord, as piano and strings drift in different directions over percussion which fade in and out. It’s all about progression and movement.

Through the Sparkle balances shimmering, softly shining upliftingless with shifting shadows. It’s an easy yet rich listening experience which brings with it a sense of the way in which music can enrich the soul.

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