Fear Falls Burning: i'm one of those monsters numb with grace

Landing: Gravitational IV

Thread Pulls: Fluorescent 1 / 2 / 3
9-pt records

Don't think presentation doesn't matter. Recalling the glory days when attention was lavished as much on album design as the recording within, these two Equation Records releases arrive packaged in full-colour gatefold sleeves, and Fear Falls Burning's disc arrives in saliva-inducing metallic grey vinyl no less (50 also available in metallic gold); similarly, 50 copies of Landing's otherwise black vinyl release Gravitational IV is available in mint-green vinyl.

Fear Falls Burning's disc presents two twenty-minute sides of real-time electric guitar playing with the axesmith deploying a small army of pedals and effects to generate multi-layered walls of sound, sometimes from a single chord that multiplies into a droning mass. The album's two pieces are anything but relentless noise assaults but instead carefully developed drone meditations of spectral character. The guitarist (who operates also under the name vidnaObmana) obviously has the means to produce a blistering cacophony but commendably chooses restraint. Don't get the wrong idea, though; i'm one of those monsters numb with grace is far from bucolic and exudes a slow-burning aura of doom. On side one's “i'm one of those monsters ...,” charred chords establish a funereal pulse alongside meandering organ-like tones before the intensity escalates as a piercing drone moves stealthily to the forefront. Side two's “... numb with grace” opens placidly, as the sustained chords simulate a peaceful zone of heavenly tones and waves, then slowly enters a Fripp-styled episode that recalls No Pussyfooting, and grows thereafter into a harrowing churn of nightmarish psychedelia. There's something undeniably appealing about a recording that's created in real-time without the aid of overdubs or post-production refinements and where one witnesses the music unfold so naturally. Solo guitar fetishists and experimental drone enthusiasts will both find much to appreciate here.

Heard after i'm one of those monsters numb with grace, Gravitational IV sounds like a slightly more conventional ‘band' album by five-piece Landing (guitarist and vocalist Aaron Snow guitar and synthesizer player and vocalist Adrienne Snow joined by Dick Baldwin on guitar and bass, Daron Gardner on bass and drums, and synthesizer player Peter Baumann). Broached on its own terms, however, the album is anything but a typical band outing, and closer in spirit to a kranky-styled collection of drone experimentalism. Side one's four songs generally blur into a continuous whole of contrasting episodes: gaseous shoegaze (“Each Man For Himself”), bright guitar playing (“Sunlight”), and melancholic balladry (“Scenes Upon The Trees” with its pairing of electric guitar and murmuring vocal). “Gravitational V” starts out as a lilting lullaby but eventually builds into a psychedelic tribal freakout. The purely instrumental side two opens with a scabrous drone of distorted guitar work (“Gravitational III pt. II”) before aligning itself, surprisingly enough, to Fear Falls Burning's album by moving into a Fripp-like section of roasted guitar playing.

Also striking are Thread Pulls' Fluorescent discs. Conceived as an ‘infinite' series of limited-run releases (100 copies of each), the three EPs are packaged in red DVD cases and arrive with either an original marker drawing (Fluorescent 1), Polaroid photo (Fluorescent 2), or band photo (Fluorescent 3). And, as they did with 2004's Summer Songs EP, bassist Peter Maybury (aka Hard Sleeper) and Cap Pas Cap members Gavin Duffy on guitar and drummer Ed Kelly recorded, edited, and arranged each EP's material almost entirely during a one-day session.

Recorded on June 16, 2006, the wholly instrumental Fluorescent 1 often puts Kelly's toms and cymbal splashes at the forefront, whether accompanied by a subdued bass throb (“Mirror more”), guitar drone (“cluster”), or lurching chords (“Perfect traveling”). The five pieces are skeletal, Tortoise-like pieces that find Thread Pulls experimenting as if warming up while the tape rolls. On the other discs, the trio adopts a dissonant, late-‘70s synth-punk style that evokes Suicide and Joy Division (check out Duffy's strangulated yelps in Fluorescent 3's plodding “Nice XX”). Recorded in October 2006, Fluorescent 2's two-part “Give me new noise” begins as a skuzzy electronic drone before morphing into vocal-based punk-funk. The discs' material sometimes seems a little sketchy but, broached as a single release, the material has a cumulative impact that's not unmemorable. Conservationists understandably might grumble, however, considering that the discs' material totals 50 minutes and so could have been collected onto a single disc.

January 2007