And now for something a little different, both in format and in sonic content! To adequately assess the latest offering from Slow Draw, two Village-dwellers--Continuous Thunder and The Administrator--took up the pen to express (complimentary) views, making for a somewhat rare double review 'round these parts. Without further ado:
Written by: Continuous Thunder
I’d like to start this with a bit of a disclaimer that I went into this album with no previous knowledge of Slow Draw or Stone Machine Electric (something I will be correcting immediately). I just saw the drone tag and I hit play. Drone can mean any number of things, but as this was a drone project of a member of a stoner band, I went in with expectations of good vibes and ultra-long riffs. What I didn’t expect was just how sparse the arrangements would be. Seriously, there’s little more than an electric piano, synths, and a guitar at any given moment on this album, and it lines up more with ambient music than drone.
Sparsity in music can be a blessing or a curse. On one hand, it strips things down to their bare elements, removing any fluff or embellishments that distract from the core of the composition. On the other, it reveals just how strong or weak a composition actually is. I think back to the last album from Earth where they dialed back the fuzz and reverb and had to lean on their riffs more than the atmosphere. Gallo does the same thing but to an even greater extent. The guitars are (mostly) acoustic, buzzy synths only serve as a backdrop, and there is very little, if any, percussion.
Written by: Ancient Hand
San Marcos’s This Will Destroy You should need no introduction at this point; the Texas post-rock group has seen plenty of success and experimentation in their now 16-year-old career. The group’s 2008 self-titled album is considered by many to be their magnum opus, and I am included in this group. That record is a beautiful blend of instrumentation that culminates into a moving and beautiful journey across an auditory version of the American Southwest. After 12 more years and plenty of other albums, we finally get the standalone release of Vespertine, the soundtrack to the high-class, two-Michelin star restaurant of the same name. The soundtrack has been available to those that have been in the restaurant for a few years now, but This Will Destroy You has finally released the soundtrack for the rest of us to enjoy.
Demonstrating adherence to a vague moral code, this particular villager will only review a split release if there's a fair balance between the parties involved. If a split is inherently weighted in an obvious fashion, it's simply not worth touting around a recommendation of the package as a whole. This is all to say that this (fairly mysterious) 2-track from Alberta's Tekarra and Mexico's Malamadre fits the bill quite well, thankyouverymuch. Both tracks here hold up, with graceful ease, its respective end of the bargain, and thus, a successful split is born. At risk of showing all my card, this fine little effort is a slow and exceedingly worthwhile burn.
Tekarra starts things off with the massive Barbaric Tools, a simultaneously deathy and droning slab of feedback-ridden amp worship. As one might expect, this living mountain of a track clocks in at over ten minutes--a slow burn, but ruthlessly effective in it's delivery. Over the course, Tekarra unleashes anticipatory waves of distortion-heavy (and indeed centric) riffage. Supplication before the the amplifier is the name of the game, and if you're new to drone, Tekarra invites you in with a warm tone and welcome arms.
Some quirky soloing and extended bouts of hypnotically intense feedback round out the guitar's delivery, lending the track a sense of character that all-too-oft goes amidst in the genre's more lackluster efforts. It's unique identity is only strengthened by the addition of crushingly heavy vocals, absolutely massive in stature. While everything remains audible, the production does lean towards the reedy side of the spectrum. In some sense, this gets the track a uniquely antiqued feel that, frankly, I've come to greatly enjoy over repeat rotations. For that gut-wrenching punch we've come to anticipate from modern doom, however, a little extra heft and girth will throw these guys in with the heavyweights. It's a great track regardless, and I'm interested to see what these potential heavyweights hit us with next.
But Tekarra aren't the only headliners here, and Malamadre, to their credit, follow up with great aplomb. Without the benefit of vocals, the appropriately entitled Cataclismo makes subtle, sparse, and incredibly effective use of drums to fill the Less a mere necessity, each cymbal hit is a statement. By design, there is limited space for any real crescendo until the very end, and Malamadre actually get by quite well by simply offering minor changes to the riff structure and percussive patterns. That's not to say the back half doesn't make exceptionally great use of noisy elements to draw things towards a natural conclusion. The entire track feels wondrously organic--somehow alien and monstrous, when compared to Tekarra's more deliberate riffage. Appropriately enough, Malamadre state that their "slow and colossal riffs" are inspired by "legends of the great kaiju." Evident enough, and well executed. Cataclismo is supremely effective in building up an inevitable catharsis.
Both of these tracks strike me with their ability to take the unexpected and use it productively against the listener. Given Tekarra's runtime, I was expecting a drawn out affair, and yet, not so much. These 10 minutes hardly feel like 5, and that is truly an accomplishment. Malamadre, to their credit, succeed enormously without vocals, utilizing well-conceived and exceedingly deliberate instrumentation to great effect. They work off each other quite well, each illustrating and inhabiting a distinct persona of doom metal's drone-ier side. As a split should.
Tekarra / Malamadre's split was released April 5th, and can be found at their respective bandcamps.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!