Posts Tagged ‘Post Rock’

When an album contains just three tracks, you know before you even hear a note that it’s going to be possessed of epic qualities. Similarly, when a band’s pitch includes ‘RIYL bands like Swans, MONO, lots of layered drums and percussion, ambient soundscapes, and wall of sound guitar and big strings’, (and I think it’s pretty much public knowledge by now that I do), then the same applies, and so needless to say I was all over this in an instant.

The first track, ‘The Gift’, is a twenty-minute behemoth, a sweeping exploration that builds from tense strings of the kind that would likely be at home on a Netflix period drama into something altogether more awe-inspiring, as the drums rumble like distant thunder at a gathering pace and intensity. Over its immense span, it leads the listener on a journey through an array of soundscapes, and there’s not only considerable atmosphere being conjured here, but the music also has a very visual aspect. You feel as if you’re being transported through different scenes, and at times, are creeping cautiously and peering around corners, while at others, staring out from a high plateau overlooking immense vistas that stretch further than the eye can see.

This is very much latterday Swans providing the inspiration here, with the expansive instrumental passages and near-ambient stretches that came to define releases from The Seer to The Glowing Man via To Be Kind, each of which stretched over a full two hours apiece. However, solarminds’ compositional approach and overall sound is quite different, leaning very much toward more conventional post-rock tropes (but without the contrivances of, say, Sigur Rós) and while there are some immense percussion-driven crescendos, with the strong-centric instrumentation, they don’t hit the explosive peaks of, say, Explosions in the Sky or Her Name is Calla. None of these are bad things, and while the sheer scale of their music does definitely sit within the domain occupied by MONO.

‘The Visit’ begins with an amorphous mass of dank, dark ambience, and is thirteen minutes of elongated, undulating drones that twist, turn, scrape and screed against a tumultuous barrage of percussion.

Closer ‘The Lie’ marks a significant departure, as the sound of heavy rain and extraneous noise gives way to a near -acappela vocal, an acoustic guitar, muffled and distant, providing the sparsest of accompaniment. It’s here they’re most reminiscent of Her Name is Calla at their most minimal, stripped-back, and folky, and it’s a delicate, tender experience that grows in emotional intensity and pulls at the gut with its starkness, its rawness.

Dissolving in a rumble of thunder, it’s a fitting conclusion to an album that, beneath some smooth surfaces, presents some quite troubled currents in the depths.

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Lo Bit Landscapes – 3rd December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

A New Kind of Weather was composed in New York City in the first months of the pandemic, against a backdrop of global panic, and with refrigerated trucks were parked at the hospital a few blocks away from the band’s residence while the city racked up in the region of 1,000 deaths in just a few weeks in March and April. Around the same time, the brother of Nihiti’s primary songwriter committed suicide. This is the bleak space in which the band found themselves – one which, to varying extents – we can all relate to.

Here, at the end of December after an interminable year, the spring of 2020 feels like another lifetime. If anyone thinks we’ve adjusted to some ‘new normal’, they’re simply thinking wishfully. Yes, we may have been ground down into trudging through the day-to-day, existing, but the separation and isolation, the ongoing restrictions and mask-wearing has a cumulative effect. Unlike the curve, our moods may have flattened out and we may well have all but erased the spasm that was late March and early April as lockdowns began to be enforced around the globe, and what had seemed like a distant issue in distant countries suddenly became the reality on our doorstep.

The title tracks sets the tone, but also represents an early album peak as a dark, blank monotone reminiscent of Michael Gira, croons against a woozy, eerie bassline – again reminiscent of Swans: ‘There are words on Christmas day, just living right in your eyes / Asking you if you will fall to the ambulance’s siren songs’. Painting a scene of tension and claustrophobia, it grows in darkness and density with rolling tom-based percussion and layered guitars. If a track ever captured the creeping paranoia that swept so much of the western world via the news media and social media in those first few months, this is it.

Slow-oscillating synths spin slow ambient mists at the start of the twelve-minute epic that is ‘Shudder into Silence’, robotix vocal snippets cutting through the cascading crystalline digital droplets that fall like dew. A heavy throb pulses low in the mix, but rises and falls again in an ever-evolving transition of sound layers. Turning, soft, smog-like, a slow-wailing siren rings out a lonely cry. The tension is palpable.

The more conventional post-rock instrumentation of ‘Into the Sands’, with it’s metronomic drums and chiming guitars marks a significant shift – if it’s gentle and vaguely shoegazey / psychedelic it’s spun through shades of Jesu, and a maudlin, almost sepulchral feel casts a long shadow over its gothic melancholy.

The percussion-free interpretation of Roy Orbison’s ‘I Drove All Night’ is different again, and perhaps the least comfortable fit on the album – if comfortable is a word that’s appropriate for describing any of the heavy atmosphere of A New Kind of Weather. Following on, ‘The Practice of Injury’ builds heavy swirls of ambience that washes and eddies in abject desolation.

Despite only containing five tracks, A New Kind of Weather clocks in at around forty-five minutes, and fill this space with a remarkably broad range of styles, while making every moment count in terms of maintaining the darkly oppressive atmosphere throughout.

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Lamour Records / Purlieu Recordings

Christopher Nosnibor

Spending most evenings immersing myself in an array of weird and wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful noise, this album came as a real surprise. The accompanying text does little to prepare the listener for such a gentle and exquisite collection of cinematic neoclassical compositions.

And yet the liner notes are precisely why Transformation is surprising, because all is not as it seems, explaining that ‘The album Transformation challenges the boundaries of human and machine, the physical and the artificial, the feasible and the impossible. The result is a thoughtful and true emotional storm where the piano forms the basis for an opposite pole between sound and playing technique. When the sound is real, it is played with inhuman technology. When played by hand, the sound moves outside the spectrum of the physical piano. What role does "lying" play for the listener?’ And what exactly are we listening to here?

It’s impossible to distinguish organs and organic sounds from synthesised or sampled approximations, and while the human / inhuman / orchestral /electronic sounds are impossible to distinguish – is that piano, performed by a musician with a real passion and a deep sense of drama, creating rippling waves of notes, or is it all so much programming? Listening to ‘Skeppsrå’, it sounds real. It feels real. I want it to be real. Can I therefore simply not believe that it’s real and accept it?

It’s not quite as straightforward as that. Once you’re aware of something, it’s impossible to erase that awareness. You want to feel as though you’re tapping into something real, otherwise it’s just muzak, film music made to fill a space and manipulate an emotional response to what may otherwise be a blandly-shot scene.

‘Tradition’ sounds like the product of synthesised sounds, while the brooding sonorous atmospherics of ‘Mekanik’ are simply other-worldly, while ‘Skogsrå’ is another magnificently supple slice of post-rock flavoured ambience that swirls and soars towards the stratosphere.

There’s no questioning that the elegiac solo piano piece, ‘Artikulation’ a beautifully poised piece, understated yet rich and immersive, and likewise ‘Klinga’ which follows. But are those ‘wrong’ notes simply artifice? Are they programmed in to create ‘imperfections’ in order to create a sense of humanity and therefore a greater ‘trust’ in the machine? Or is this an example of an openness about human error? I’m not convinced: why would any musician play to highlight their flaws? But this is the challenge and the dilemma: what and who do you trust?

Trust nothing and trust no-one: but do trust me when I say that Transformation is a fascinating and most listenable work.

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Pelagic Records – 20th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The Swedish quartet’s fifth album finds them freely drawing on myriad genre references to conjure a cocktail that extends far beyond even the broadest perimeters of post-rock to render this a truly hybrid work. The scale of the ambition is immense, and for a band who rarely spent time together and only rehearse ahead of tours or to write and record albums, the way they’ve drawn everything together so organically is remarkable.

The title is quite fitting as they swing back and forth across the forms and styles, with a brooding electroambient introduction in the form of the title track which builds by stealth over the course of seven and a half minutes to a grand-scale swell of cinematic hypnotism with rolling drums driving a cyclical synth motif.

‘E22’ brings the guitars to the fore and is more overtly conventionally post-rock, but it’s got a certain progressive edge, not to mention some weight, breaking into some hefty bass-dominated riffage around the five-minute mark. There’s a pace-rock / psyche twist to ‘Mindtrip’, by far the album’s most accessible and buoyant tune, and it contrasts with the altogether more tense ‘Shelter’, which emanates a simmering tension. The absence of vocals actually accentuates the mood and renders it all the more relatable, as the listener pours the emotional contents of their own experience into the empty vessel the band present.

This, for me – and doubtless for many, having attended countless instrumental post-rock shows in the decade spanning 2002-2012 – is the draw of the genre, at least when well-executed: post-rock presents sonic expanses without authorial steer, without any insistence on specific meaning, leaving the listener to fill in the spaces. And with vast, expansive spaces in which to wander, into which to pour one’s thoughts and experiences, this is music that opens its arms to a world of freedom.

They don’t do short songs: Oscillate only contains eight tracks, but only two of those clock in under six minutes, and the final pairing of ‘Eraser’ and ‘The Headless Man’, both of which extend well past the eight-minute measure. The first of these is a dynamic rush of a tune, with propellant drumming and a solid bass throb, while the second is a redemptive sunburst of a tune, the light of dawn breaking over the horizon.

Oscillate is a strong set, and the album will indubitably appeal to fans of MONO, Explosions in the Sky, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but in context, comparisons are reductive: this is an album that stretches far wider than its influences and is truly impressive in its breadth and scale.

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17th August 2020 – Submarine Broadcasting Co

Christopher Nosnibor

According to the blurbage (I can’t claim to spend all that much time on research when my primary objective is to report a critical and sometimes emotional response to a release, and band and PR invest a lot of time in their explications, so why not?) ‘Hozro’, is a native American Dineh word that means living being conscious about the beauty, the magic and the mystery of the universe to which we belong.

I’ve been struggling to find much hozro myself in recent months, confined to a diminished space, rarely seeing or speaking to anyone outside my immediate household and inundated with reports of the shitshow that is western governments, so ,maybe I need this album right now.

Iyari describes it as post-rock, but threatens elements of folk and traditional music, avant garde and electronica, as performed by him and a while slew of guest musician, who all contribute

‘Eloher’, the first composition, is but an introduction, a path that leads the listener toward the body of sound that lies ahead, and it’s a wide-ranging and eclectic set, of which the title rack is representative. There’s a certain restraint in the echo-soaked lead guitar line that rings out over a low-key but insistent sting-damped strum.

Is it just me that instantly connects reverb and atmosphere? Is it the musical equivalent of an autosuggestive word association? Maybe, but Hozro brings all the atmosphere with its sparse arrangements.

There’s a magnificently moving vocal on ‘The Great Spirit’, and while it soars and quavers most movingly, there are undercurrents that intimate ancient folk traditions, and one suspects its this that taps into a deeper level of the psyche than the surface of the singing or the tune itself. ‘Islay’ may or may not be a musical homage to the Scottish island which is home to distillers of the finest single malts going, because Hozro is a pancultural melting-pot, and moreover, one which actually infuses the elements effortlessly. ‘Land of the Silver Shadows’ stands out, not by virtue of its difference, but the fact it encapsulates every magnificently understated aspect of the album within a softly-ripping six minutes.

Iyari clearly grasps the idea that less is more, and in bringing the volume and the detail and the level of demand on the listener down, Hozro brings more – much more, making it one to explore.

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This is It Forever – 9th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The years between 2004 and 2008 are something of a musical blur now, a period – well over a decade past – spent at the Brudenell and various other venues – immersed in endless post-rock sets. The similarness of so many bands wasn’t a problem: if any one band could be considered immersive, then the scene as a whole melted into one protracted wash of chiming guitars and a succession of crescendos that became almost an integral aspect of life itself as everything drifted into a mist that was pure escapism from the drudgery of work.

I didn’t actually manage to catch Bradford’s Falconetti, and instead came to them by way of a mate who picked up an EP – the self-released debut Oceanography – at Jumbo Records in Leeds on the basis of the staff write-up (Jumbo’s attention to detail with the inclusion of a blurb for everything they stock, coupled their support for local and regional acts really is special)

Falconetti were active between 2003 and 2008, and the fact A History of Skyscrapers contains just eight tracks while representing (almost) the entirety of their output (barring ‘Solid State’ from their last EP, given away at their final show in 2008, and the outlying hip-hop crossover collaboration ‘Falconetti vs The Enemy’), which emerged slowly along the way is evidence of just how they didn’t rush their work. It may or may not have hampered their short-lived career, but listening back now with fresh ears, it’s clear that the small legacy they have left is practically faultless.

If the title, and the connotations of ‘a history’ suggest chronology, then A History of Skyscrapers brings a certain disappointment, in that the tracks aren’t arranged in order of release, and do don’t provide a sense of the band’s evolution over time: the idea here is that A History of Skyscrapers approximates the debut album that never was.

‘Finisterre’ stays with the nautical themes that dominate their work, but breaks from the instrumental form to incorporate soaring, semi-operative female vocal curtesy of guest singer Emma Adams, against a shimmering, lustre-filled guitar.

‘Body of Water’, from the 2003 Oceanography is outstanding, building as it does from a delicate meandering into a full-on heavy riff noise that betrays their appreciation of Jesu and takes it further into lunging God/Godflesh territory with grinding guitars, lumbering bass, and some wild free jazz horns.

Lifted from that final EP, ‘Sonatine’ is lugubrious, spacious and the sound of a band expanding and experimenting, while the twelve-minute ‘Straits of Messina’, from 2007’s Finesterre is a slow-simmering exercise in subtlety and texture that’s minimal and mournful and moving, as is fitting for a composition about the site of a major earthquake in 1908, which had a magnitude of 7.1, almost completely destroying the cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria, with the loss of between 75,000 and 82,000 lives.

For all of the bleak history, there is a grace and elegance about Falconetti’s work, and while much of the sound of very much rooted in the time, not least of all the mournful brass and rolling guitar lines, softly picked and reverb-heavy, over a decade on, their brooding atmospherics and range, which incorporates elements of shoegaze and dream pop and ambient and even post-punk mean that Falconetti sound as fresh and exciting as ever.

There’s a strong temptation to reflect on what could have been, but knowing how fickle and chance-based the music industry is, it’s as likely they’d have stalled and faded around regional small-venue gigs as it is they’d have progressed to headlining 200+ capacity venues nationally and acquired the kind of cult following in mainland Europe that would have kept them going nicely. So instead, it’s better that A History of Skyscrapers is viewed with the appreciation for the music as it is: as ‘Magna Via’ builds to a cathedral of a crescendo, we’re reminded of just how cathartic and invigorating the best of post-rock was, and still is. And while Falconetti may be no more the music still remains – and is now considerably easier to access, thanks to This Is It Forever and this compilation.

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One Little Indian – 1st May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Like many, Daisy Chainsaw’s incursion into the singles chart with ‘Love Your Money’ in 1992, was my introduction to KatieJane Garside. I’ll admit that I wasn’t immediately sold, and it wasn’t until I caught Queenadreena supporting The Rollins Band in the early noughties that I came to appreciate her as a performer, at once captivating and terrifying. Queenadreena, and, subsequently, Ruby Throat charted an artistic and musical progression, and Liar, Flower is a continuation, a new iteration of Ruby Throat, consisting of Garside and multi-instrumentalist Chris Whittingham.

The band moniker intimates the kind of juxtapositionality of Daisy Chainsaw: pretty, delicate, and brutal, and it proves to be most fitting. Geiger Counter is mostly delicate, if not necessarily pretty, and definitely presents those elements of juxtaposition and opposition with serenity colliding with screaming abrasion in a varied set of songs.

‘9N-AFE’ is sparse, eerie, a mesmeric beatless trip-hop backing accompanies a lost, haunting vocal, and it calls to mind early Cranes. It’s followed by the slow-skipping chamber-folk of ‘baby teeth’ and the stark country hues of ‘blood berries’, which finds Garside weaving and soaring stratospheric notes and evoking Kate Bush.

Geiger Counter may be geared toward the quieter, more introspective end of the sonic spectrum, but it’s stylistically varied. The instrumentation is subtle, delicate, and remains very much in the position of accompaniment, placing Garside’s voice to the fore.

There are exceptions: ‘doors locked, oven’s off’ is a lilting acoustic instrumental just a couple of minutes in duration, while the stripped-back vaudeville ‘broken light’ suddenly breaks into jazz-tinged piano discord, and ‘even though the darkest clouds’ goes full electric, sucking hints of Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr into its maelstrom of guitars. Garside is on fire, sounding dangerous and demented. The lyrics are often difficult to decipher, but ‘don’t worry darling, I’ve got to wash my hands’ breaks through the chaos and screams OCD. Or maybe that’s just me. They rock it up again on ‘little brown shoes’ too, a scuzzy blues stomper with a solid groove where KatieJane wails like a banshee witch and growls like all the menace. The swampy ‘Mud Stars’ plunges into a miasma of soulful blues that becomes increasingly uncomfortable as it slides into a haze of noise.

The simple acoustic arrangements are understated, Garside’s vocals haunting in a way that slides beneath the skin: the brooding post-rock atmospherics of ‘Hole in my Hand’ are moving, but in an almost imperceptible way. It feels like the reflective calm after protracted spell of emotional turbulence.

There’s a clear and strong arc that carries Geiger Counter, an album which builds in volume and intensity as it progresses, culminating in the all-out abrasion of the no-wave noise rock riot that is ‘My Brain is Lit Like an Airport’. As a journey, it becomes increasingly challenging as it goes on, and as an album it’s stunning.

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The Crescent, York, 14th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It doesn’t seem real now. It was the night before everything changed, before everything changed again a couple of days later. While cancellations were accelerating, advice and clarity was sparse, and what constituted ‘the right thing’ was very much a matter for debate. The Crescent were very much doing ‘the right thing’ based on the advice: punters were steered to washing their hands on arrival at the venue: those without e-tickets advised to pay by contactless card, while also paying contactlessly at the bar, being served by staff in gloves, pints being served in cans or single-use plastic vessels. Social distancing wasn’t yet a specific thing, and there was scant information which suggested that in excess of 15 minutes in close proximity may increase the risk of transmission. We greeted with elbows and nods. In the main, we respected the guidelines.

I’d be interested to know how many of those who attended have subsequently fallen sick with Covid-19. Not all of us were in the ‘young’ demographic; none of us was being wilfully irresponsible. The virus has become divisive in the way that Brexit was: on social media, in particular, anyone leaving the house risks being subject to vilification, abuse, and even police interrogation. We now live in a climate of fear – an unprecedented climate of fear, dominated by an unprecedented overuse of the word ‘unprecedented’.

The middle of March: a mere month ago, but another lifetime. Gig attendances were already beginning to drop off sharply as the fear spread. And with everything amping up, there was a certain sense of occasion about this: I sense that many of use attended as much out of a sense of solidarity and support: solidarity and support for the bands, the venue, the local scene, and one another. And because we knew, if only subconsciously, that the opportunities to convene like this would be numbered. Gatherings like this are what keep communities together, and keep many of us sane. I’m elated to see numerus friends, including some I’ve not seen in far too long: we catch up about parenthood and our concern for our elderly parents under the creeping shadow of the virus. We drink beer, and we watch bands.

Viewer haven’t been out in a while, and apart from time down the pub, have almost been on a self-imposed isolation for I don’t know who long. I’m not even sure Tim Wright would notice a 12-week lockdown. But here he is, hunched over a laptop, cranking out beats and backings and migraine-inducing visual backdrops while AB Johnson – still suffering the effects of concussion and sporting a black eye and struggling to remember the lyrics after a recent accident involving his face and the pavement – pours every ounce of energy into his performance. They’re the primary reason I’m here, and given the quality of the songs, the visuals, and the people they’ve dragged out of the woodwork, every moment is a joy. Johnson’s lyric sheets are scattered around the stage and his difficult relationship with mic stands is evident tonight. But despite any shakes or glitches, they remain one of the most essential acts around, and just need for the world to catch up.

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Soma Crew are showcasing (another) new lineup tonight, with a minimal drum set-up and lap steel dronage and slide bringing new dimensions to their deep psych chugging repetitions driven by varying between two or three guitars. My notes begin to descend into sketchy incoherence around this point, but the memory-jogging ‘RRR’ reminds me that they’re masters of the three ‘r’s – repetition, repetition, repletion, and they slug away at three chords for five or six minutes to mesmeric, hypnotic effect. It seems that every time I write about Soma Crew, I remark that they’re better every time I see them. And yet again, it’s true. They’re denser, more solid, more muscular, and tighter than ever, and on this outing they feel like a band who should be playing to way bigger crowds, capable of holding their own at the Brudenell or the Belgrave.

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Soma Crew

Leeds’ Long-Legged Creatures are new on me, and they impress, with a fluid bass and big washes of texture defining the sound. An eletro/post-rock/psych hybrid, they lay down some hypnotic grooves, and my sketchy, increasingly beer-addled notes remind me that their performance is frenetic, kinetic, with some strong – and complex – drum ‘n’ bass / jazz drumming driving the songs.

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Long Legged Creatures

Things take a major left-turn when some poet guy steps up to the mic and spews lines and rhymes like John Cooper Clarke on a cocktail of drugs. A spot of digging suggests he may be Joshua Zero, but I may be wrong. He’s a compelling presence, though: he’s wild, he’s crazed, and his staggering vitriolic attacks are in stark contrast to the coordinated post-rock jams of the band. It’s as exhilarating as it is unexpected. It’s great.

Maybe you had to be there. Maybe you were better avoiding it. But I’ve no regrets. I miss gigs, I miss pubs, I miss live music, and I miss people. At least my last experience of all of these was truly wonderful and encapsulated everything I love about this.

Sound In Silence – 9th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Fifteen years on from initiating worriedaboutsatan, Gavin Miller resumes work under the moniker as a solo performer once more. During that time, there have been lengthy breaks, solo releases and side projects, and five albums along the way, all of which featured Thomas Ragsdale. As a duo, it was always apparent that each of them brought something very different to the table, and on paper, the differences probably just shouldn’t work, with Ragsdale’s more beat-centric style seemingly at odds with Miller’s introspective post-rock / ambient stylings. But work it did, and incredibly well. The sound evolved over time, too, from the stuttering microbeats that characterised Arrivals to the up-front booming dance grooves particularly prominent in their later live sets, worriedaboutsatan developed, but remained distinctive.

So what impact Ragsdale’s departure to focus on his solo endeavours?

Pleasingly, Crystalline still has that je ne sais quoi that’s uniquely worriedaboutsatan, despite the contrasts being less pronounced, as Miller pursues the more ambient direction that defined Revenant and Blank Tape. The eight pieces coalesce as a whole to create an album that’s mellow and subtle, with reverby guitar notes chiming out into soft washes of ambient synth. It is predominantly background in its positioning: Crystalline isn’t an album where anything leaps out and grabs the attention, there are no peaks or troughs, and the whole thing more or les drifts by on a certain level that registers low on the concentration meter. That’s not a criticism, but a personal observation on its function as a musical work: it supplements the mood and occupies a space in an understated fashion, and is something that can be played while you’re working or reading. By the same token, that doesn’t make it ‘forgettable’ or mean it isn’t worthy of attentive listening: Miller has constructed some magnificently layered compositions, and while the overall sensation emanates from broad washes of sound that could be described as impressionistic, there is considerable detail beneath the surface.

The forms are vague and vaporous, the individual instruments indistinct, but this changes on penultimate track, ‘Secretly’, where the guitar becomes clearer and more ‘guitary’, and judders as the echoes take over the notes, creating a doubling effect as the picked strings stop and stutter against a heartbeat pulse of a beat.

The album closes with the mournful drones of ‘Switching Off’: sparse, spaced out, blank in their connotations before a swell of overloaded feedback begins to rise in the loudest, most abrasive moment on the album, before it’s suddenly cut dead. Thank you, and good night.

The suddenness of this ending is unexpected, and breaks the suspension of time that the preceding half hour of amorphous sound punctuated by barely-there beats has created. It’s a jolt, and you’re back in the room.

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worriedaboutsatan – Crystalline