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

Friday, June 3, 2011

CD review - The Fierce and the Dead, If It Carries On Like This, We Are Moving to Morecambe (2011)

I've reviewed Matt Stevens' solo work before. His acoustic/experimental looping is jazzy and thoughtful. His current band, the Fierce and the Dead, takes Stevens' sound into a post-rock direction. The flow on If It Carries On Like This, We Are Moving to Morecambe slides from looser interludes to periods of intense focus. Usually from song to song, but occasionally it even waffles within a single track.

This collection of instrumentals evokes a sense of 3 a.m., whether it's peaceful solitude or uneasy sleeplessness. The ambient start of Flint rises to our attention like the sound of static from a television waking us up. Except the sound continues expanding to a noisy crescendo until the bass comes in to provide a structure that outlasts the noise. The bass and drums anchor the song while the guitar alternates between emotional shimmers of sound and cleaner jazz melody. Like several other tracks on If It Carries On Like This, the abstract arrangement is centered on the repeated bass line.

H.R. sets off a chain of King Crimson influenced tracks. The constantly climbing, angular guitar line is pure Robert Fripp. It builds tension before erupting into post rock flail. The next track, Hotel No. 6, resolves the tension into a softer pillow of sound, recalling Fripp and Eno's ambient works. But that's merely an interlude before the grinding Thrak-like sound of Landcrab.

My favorite track is 10x10. Following the album's formula, the bass and drums provide the basic foundation for the guitar to snap on a series of textures. Looping allows Stevens to lay on layers of interlocking parts. This repetitive groove proves quite versatile as the band even takes it into a glitchy electronic space. Even though the Fierce and the Dead's sound is in thrall to the guitar, 10x10 creates a keyboard-friendly zone.

If It Carries On Like This is a nice roller coaster ride. The album gives us plenty to think about in those early morning hours: thoughtful, then anxious; nostalgic but also cathartic. Each moment pondered on its own merits like a fine salty Islay scotch.

If It Carries On Like This, We Are Moving to Morecambe is currently available as a "pay what you will" download on Bandcamp.

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