Belong: Common Era

The 2011 Belong model is radically different from the one that five years ago produced October Language, the debut collection from New Orleans duo Turk Dietrich and Michael Jones issued on Carpark. That earlier incarnation was all about feedback-drenched noise-sculpting, slow-motion wail, and grandiose euphoria, and suggested natural playmates for the duo would include Tim Hecker, Eluvium, and Fennesz. The new model, on the other hand, serves up a shoegaze-meets-krautrock song-based style that would seem to have more in common with My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. That a pronounced shift in approach was in the offing was indicated by 2008's Colorloss Record EP (issued on St. Ives), where Belong tackled covers of four tracks from the earlier psychedelic era, and 2008's Same Places, a single-track, clear vinyl installment in Table of the Elements' Guitar Series.

Powered by ultra-simple drum machine beats, Common Era's songs typically feature a pulsating, bass-driven core wrapped in a thick swirl of gauzy, mellotron-like washes. Making Belong's sound even more palatable, ethereal vocals float alongside the metronomic snare patterns, with lyrics (when what's sung isn't wordless) barely decodable when blanketed by the dense surround. All of the songs are a tad grainy and a little bit out-of-focus, as if they're beaming in from some alternate universe, with some uptempo and urgent and others comparatively more placid and dream-like. If guitars are the duo's fundamental sound generators, whatever hard edges that instrument might typically possess have been smoothened into something considerably more vaporous. Despite such changes, there is still a controlled euphoria about the band's sound, and, just as was the case with October Language, Common Era is best played at maximum volume for the full measure of Belong's sound-world to be experienced.

February 2011