Posts Tagged ‘Brooding’

Metropolis Records – 22 March 2019

So often, less is more. All we know if muet is that ‘muet is the sound of American noir. Sonically defiant art rock sung under the shadow of a long brim hat. Deliberate dissonance and heartbreaking melody are stitched together beneath sodium light with tales of the tragic, the romantic, and the bizarre. The band features Steven Seibold, Daniel Evans and Vince Mcaley, who have all enjoyed moderate success in various post-industrial and punk bands. based out of Chicago’.

I may have mentioned before that I broke free of mainstream music by route of 80s goth, so I have something of an appreciation of hats. Actually, that’s something of an understatement, as I’ve been an avid hat-wearer for large portions of the last 27 years. Muet is the sound of doomed romanticism and hat-wearing, a meshing of the gothier end of the post-punk spectrum with more contemporary takes on the same: because for all of the referencing and influence, the likes of Interpol and She Wants Revenge very much filter the past through a post-millennial lens.

The album’s first chord is a single, echoing strike that could almost be a sample of the opening note on ‘Marian’ by The Sisters of Mercy, and then a mechanoid drum and solid , square bass groove rumbles in, holding down that c.85 Sisters vibe… but the nagging, trebly guitar that chops in is more Gang of 4 via Radio 4 ‘Leather Jacket Perfume.’

There’s a heavy sleaze vibe that permeates every aspect of the album, with song titles like the aforementioned ‘Leather Jacket Perfume’, ‘Weirdest Sex’, ‘Her Dad’s Car’, and ‘Muscle’, but there’s equally a considerable amount of brooding and melancholy, conveyed by atmospheric, echo-drenched, minor-key guitars picked and spun.

‘Reach out and Murder’ features some wild, bending post-punk guitar and a thunderous rhythm section and kicks out a riff reminiscent of Department S’ ‘Is Vic There?’, whole the chorus has something of a Cooper Temple Clause feel. ‘on2u’ combines swagger and groove with a dash of early 90s Mission wrapped in a haze of psychedelia

One thing that comes across strongly is the emotional depth ploughed into each of the songs. Yes, there’s an element of stylisation which is part and parcel of the genre form, but there’s a conviction that resonates and it’s unmistakeably genuine. Moreover, muet has range, and doesn’t focus excessively on any one theme or mood, while maintaining a stylistic cohesion. It’s a proper album, and a damn fine one at that.

AA

muet

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Gizeh Records – GZH68 – 2nd September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Richard Knox’s musical career is marked by works which are ponderous and atmospheric. Howeevr, his latest venture in colaboration with Claire Brentnall, is distinguished by a leaning toward material which feels more focused, compositionally, and more direct. It’s all relative, of course, and Mirror Breathing is, as the title implies, a work which is hazy, misty, the songs grasping, just for a second, at the ephemeral and reflecting the moments back, refracted and rarefied. Following on from debut album Contour Lines (2014) and 2015’s Violet EP, Mirror Breathing marks a step further into dark pop territory, although dark is indeed the operative word here, and it’s clear that in Brentnall he’s found the perfect collaborator: a person with not only an amazing voice, but an equal understanding of what it takes to forge ponderous, nuanced, atmospheric music. It’s not a matter of drawing out which each brings to each composition: Shield Patterns are built on collaboration and intuition, more of a case of a creative space emerging from a collective ‘third mind’ than the simple coming together to two musicians. 

The musical backing the pair create is atmospheric, and captures elements of light and shade which contrast magnificently; dark, rumbling low-end and industrial scrapes are tempered by ethereal ambient sounds of indeterminate origin. Claire Brentnall’s breathy vocal hangs, spine-shiveringly, over the drifting soundscape. The whole production is draped in a soft-focus feel, a mist which partially obscures the shapes and forms and renders them vague, unfamiliar and ambiguous. This ambiguity and unfamiliarity is an unsettling sensation, and while the graceful vocals superficially soothe, the emotional tension and overall sonic disquiet ultimately leave the listener pulled in different directions, peering into the shadows and wondering what lies just out of view. Arrhythmic percussion echoes in the dark, detonations which send shuddering vibrations through the ground. There’s a stark beauty to ‘This Temporary Place’ that calls to mind Zola Jesus, and elsewhere, dark industrial grumbling tremors contrast with the dreamy, otherworldly atmosphere of ‘Cerulean’.

Julia Kent is an artist who has a tendency to crop up in all sorts of places and with remarkable frequency: a respected solo artist in her own right, she is also a one-time member of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, as well as performing as a member of Rasputina and Anthony and the Johnson, he cello work on three of the tracks here adds further texture to the arrangements. Ultimately, though, it’s the balance of the instrumentation which really makes the album work: there’s a lot going on, with many incidental sounds blended in, but it’s seamless and no one aspect or sound dominates at any point.

Again returning to the connotations of the title, if the image of a steamed mirror can be read as a twist on the ‘smoke and mirrors’ metaphor, then there is an element of deception in the way the compositions seem sparse, but are in fact constructed from manifold layers which form strata of remarkable sonic depth and density. The drums may be distant-sounding and low in the mix, but they roll like thunder. In Claire’s vocals, you don’t hear every word, but you feel them. Sometimes she soars so high as to be barely audible to the human ear. Sometimes, it’s less about the actual lyrical content than the delivery, and her voice as of and in itself conveys more than mere words ever could. There’s a quality in Claire Brentnall’s voice which communicates on a subconscious, subliminal level. Her voice echoes in the recesses between the beats, drifts along, enveloped in the gauze-like textures, and occupies invisible spaces between the notes. Hers is a voice which is delicate, but by no means weak; yet the strength of her delivery lies in her ability to convey vulnerability.

From the alluring ‘Dusk’ to the dolorous chimes of ‘Blue Shutters’ and the sinister depths of ‘Balance & Scatter’ with its dark jazz intimations, via the tranquil and sedate(d)‘Sleepdrunk’, the songs conjure scenes of both anguish and ecstasy and often explore the pull of existing in both states simultaneously. Haunting, hypnotic and disquieting, Mirror Breathing is an impressive work that warrants time for thought and reflection.

Shield Patterns - Mirror Breathing