(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, December 13, 2010

CD review - Red Sparowes, The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies The Answer (2010)

Modern classical music has two main branches. One arises from experimental music. Artists like John Cage, Steve Reich, and Brian Eno have each tried to find new forms of self expression that question how music should work. On the other hand, most of the accessible modern classical music is the form of movie film scores. John Williams epitomizes this, where his work builds on standard classical ideas of leitmotif and orchestral arrangement.

Modern post rock music could be considered a third branch. Red Sparowes, Porcupine Tree, and Mogwai all make music that more fully develop their musical ideas. Their albums involve longer pieces with repeating motifs. They avoid simplistic verse/chorus arrangements, preferring to transition between richer melodic sections.

The Fear is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer is the Red Sparowes' latest foray into post rock, verging into post metal. It delivers a modern classical experience. The pieces have a melodic depth. Without quite becoming an old school concept album, Red Sparowes forges a musical relationship between the songs that makes a cohesive whole. To some extent, they owe a serious debt to Pink Floyd, but they're not just a derivative band, rehashing jammy psychedelia. They use some similar techniques to create evocative soundscapes that create an emotional response.

In Illusions of Order, the pensive bass line that starts the song accumulates bright reflections of guitar and a glassy sheen of keyboards. It builds into something like Pink Floyd's Careful With That Axe, Eugene: a lulling repetition with a complex variations. The song hits crescendos, but avoids any shocking moment like the one in Careful. Instead a reflective vamp releases the tension that built during the first section. This second movement also falls to a stately processional sound. The effect is one of a deepening rut of routine, the possibility of escape, and then transcendence.

Sinister moments are scattered through The Fear Is Excruciating..., but there are thoughtful respites as well. Enjoy the fear and know the answer is there, too. But what to drink? Hmm. Take a bottle of Old Peculiar and a bottle of Arrogant Bastard. Have someone randomly pick one and fill your glass. Which one did you get?

No comments:

Post a Comment