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.