Posts Tagged ‘Contrast’

27th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ghost Moon Ritual follows its predecessor, Night Tides, after three years in the making. It’s easy to forget that most musicians have actual day-jobs, and things like families and normal lives to operate, too. It’s not easy to pack in creative activity alongside normal life.

Since lockdown, everyone seems to have delivered a new release, and, bizarrely, and most unexpectedly, a world without live shows is suddenly a world brimming with new music not so much ins spite of, but because of circumstance.

All of our circumstances are different, of course. Balancing dayjob, parenting, and an all-consuming state of anxiety, I’ve found less time and energy than ever available to review more material than I’ve ever received in over a decade of doing this.

Ghost Moon Ritual is pitched as ‘a song-cycle influenced by redemption, hope, failure and endurance’, and while the creative contexts isn’t immediately apparent, the attention to detail, not least of all atmosphere, is.

As the band write, ‘During the three years of writing and recording the album, several people close to the band passed away bringing a heavy mood to the proceedings. During this time, two beautiful children were born as well, bringing with them a reminder of the joy that still exists and is always enduring. Realizing that all there is now and that the outside world at large seemed to be teetering more and more on the edge of a cliff Work moved slowly, tuning this out and retreating into the studio with heavy hearts, the duo worked to channel the grief and hope and joy into what has become Ghost Moon Ritual.’

While Night Tides contained six songs, Ghost Moon Ritual contains thirteen, and as such is an altogether more substantial document. It’s also a document which renders with crystal clarity the way in which Lunar Twin’s work is built on contrasts: specifically, Bryce Boudreau’s baritone vocals that call to mind Leonard Cohen, and as such belong to a rock / folk world, while Christopher Murphy conjures sonic drifts that meld dreamwave and sparse folk with a laid-back, rippling dance vibe.

The album’s first song, ‘Drunken Sky’ is a slow, swaying semi-comatose crawl of drum machine and synth bass, and calls to mind some of the doomy, reverby-but-claustrophobic material on The Jesus And Mary Chain’s Barbed Wire Kisses. The drums burst into D’n’B near the end, which is unexpected, but then there’s a lot that’s unexpected about this set.

All of the Mark Lanegan comparisons are entirely justified: ‘Leaves’, and, indeed, several other cuts, could easily pass as outtakes from recent Lanegan albums, with Bryce Boudreau’s world-weary gravel-heavy croon laying breathy over sparse backing, picked guitar and spectral synths drifting over minimal percussion. ‘Neon Room’ is subtle, combining chilled dance grooves with a deep-carved rock growl: the result is quite unexpectedly affecting.

As a collection it’s sparse, dolorous, dark. It’s also gentle in its bleakness, but bleak it is, as well as understated and graceful, and as such, it reaches all the parts.

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Sacred Bones Records – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Magus is Thou’s first full-length since 2014’s Heathen. It’s perhaps fair to say that the three EPs which preceded it – which they forewarned would be ‘a complete sonic departure from Magus and from each other’ – which effectively constituted albums in their own right – did nothing to prepare us for this.

But what exactly is this? As the album’s press blurb acknowledges, they’re ‘often lumped in with New Orleans sludge bands like Eyehategod and Crowbar, [but share] shares a more spiritual kinship with ‘90s proto-grunge bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden’, while ‘the band’s aesthetic and political impulses reflect the obscure ’90s DIY hardcore punk found on labels like Ebullition, Vermiform, and Crimethinc’. All this makes them hard to place.

The album’s opener, ‘Inward’, provides just over ten full minutes of snarling fury that carries enough weight to crush weaker souls who may venture forth expecting any of the soft musicality of the Inconsolable EP (which revealed Thou to be capable of extreme gentility, and, indeed, extreme beauty).

Things turn very black and very sludgy and very heavy on ‘Transcending Dualities’; and while it’s a snarling, low-tuned mess of slow-creeping sludge, there are stray notes that break free to squeal to break the trudging oppression. Bryan Funck’s twisted vocals draw every ounce of excruciation into the mix.

‘The Changeling Prince’ brings grace and grandeur to proceedings, and the hushed intro and expansive sound of ‘Sovereign Self’ (the second of three songs to cross the ten-minute mark) calls to mind Amenra, but his is a whole other level of gnarly, demonic savagery, and the overall sonic density is suffocating.

But Magus does find Thou continue to expand and explore in all directions, and there are three shorter tracks that serve as interludes between the towering monoliths which are the songs themselves: the cacophonous racket of ‘My Brother Caliban’ contrasts sharply with ‘Divine Will’, with its ethereal female vocals and pounding tribal drums. Elsewhere, the sprawling epic that is ‘In the Kingdom of Meaning’ introduces a psychedelic twist to the doomy trudge. And there are passages of extreme delicacy, rich in evocative atmosphere, which draw the lister into quiet clearings with dappled light where an air of calm radiates before the shadows loom, the clouds gather and the next tempestuous storm breaks. Such tension-building passages and contrasts of mood and volume create a compelling dynamic and makes Magus a mighty album which requires attention and exploration of the detail.

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