…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – IX

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In their 20 year history, Austin, Texas act …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead have never been a by the book kind of band, always shifting and turning in unpredictable directions. An incredibly hard band to pigeonhole, one that has over time been adorned tags such from hardcore, to prog, to indie rock and even mathcore; trying to quickly define this band is a waste of time.

This ‘trend’ of the unexpected continues on ninth album, IX (Superball Music), with songs that were originally intended for use in film and television as instrumentals, before the creative rivers flowed some more. Also surprisingly is how refined and near simplistic it all is (in comparison to previous work at least). Still far from being an AC/DC template like band but IX does relinquish their sense of indulgence and expansion for a more streamlined approach, somewhere between their punk influences and indie rock, with the merest suggestion of prog. ‘A Million Random Digits’ is one of the more up tempo moments and has an aggressive streak in comparison to the synth driven ‘Jaded Apostles’ that precedes it.

On the first instrumental effort, ‘How To Avoid Huge Ships’ is where we are reminded just how bombastic this band can be when they turn up the prog; with piano and strings bolstering and building the song over its course, bigger and bigger. It is in this latter half of the album where the band’s extravagant side rears its head again, with these instrumentals and the long players like ‘Lost In The Grand Scheme’, in contrast to the short and sharper blocks in the previous half.

IX is another turn in this band’s very winding road and one that sees many of their sides come together, and at times in an all new perspective. There are signs of their punk like volatility and their whimsical prog side and a little in between. Another fine addition to their already captivating catalogue; this band simply refuses to be boring.

 

7.0/10

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CHRIS TIPPELL

 

 

 

Midnight Masses – Departures

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Former …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead member Jason Reece is well known for being an Indie Rock enfant-terrible, destroying equipment and playing squalling discordant alt rock á la Sonic Youth. Yet with Midnight Masses, Reece has looked to produce more gentle, soulful material which still beats with the same black heart of his main act.

 

Manifesting in 2008, Midnight Masses have been labelled with many genres such as ‘Gothic Americana’ and ‘Grunge Gospel Folk Rock’. Truly there is no easy way to encapsulate this band into a catchy genre sound bite, and they are all the better for it. Singer Autry Fulbright’s take on his band’s multifaceted sound is “The sound of a city… In the middle of a desert” whatever that means.

 

Amassing over 14 members, Midnight Masses weave hazy psychedelic landscapes with some 1960’s atmospherics, Gospel vocal passages and Krautrock textures. Think Josh Homme, Neu! and Unkle jamming under an isolated desert sky and you’ll be close. As experimental as this all sounds, there are some very catchy tunes on Departures (Superball/Century Media),‘All Goes Black’ has a beautifully catchy chorus despite the melancholy overtones that permeate its every nuance. Since Fulbright wrote their debut to cope with the loss of his father, several other members of the group also experienced the loss of loved ones which accounts for the largely solemn feel.

 

Introspective and indulgent, painting with a myriad of styles Departures occasionally loses its way. When following the path of gothic alt rock on ‘Am I A Nomad’ or the surprisingly upbeat ‘Clap Your Hands’ provide a much levity from navel gazing to produce moments of true beauty. Undeniably talented, the overall impact is blighted by a lack of cohesion, leaving the mind able to wonder aimlessly when it should be focussed on the journey ahead.

 

Grief and loss have made some truly extraordinary records, yet the lack of clear direction towards either big city lights of earthy rural darkness leaves us somewhere in no man’s land.

 

6.0/10.0

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ROSS BAKER