MGR / Xela: Shipping Gold / Calling for Vanished Faces
Barge Recordings

Barge Recordings is proving itself to be rather guitar-centric as its catalogue grows, with its follow-up to Geoff Mullen's Armory Radio a split release from MGR (an acronym of Mustard Gas and Roses adopted by Isis axe-smith Mike Gallagher) and Xela (Type Records' head John Twells) that's available in vinyl and digital download formats. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course, especially when the results are as fully-developed and epic as the two pieces on display here.

MGR's sixteen-minute “Shipping Gold” weaves acoustic picking and haunted electric streams into a multi-layered, dread-filled nightscape. Gallagher sets a slow and measured course throughout, with acoustic patterns laying a firm foundation that offsets the anguished shudders and molten slabs detonating around them. Massed guitars stab the gloom and leave billowing trails of black smoke in their wake until the front-line guitars morph into a vortex of charred chords.

Anyone looking for the placid Xela of Tangled Wool won't find him anywhere near “Calling For Vanished Faces,” an incinerating, twenty-three-minute meltdown of guitar feedback and distortion. Twells is joined by drummer Jed Bindeman (Heavy Winged), who improvises with abandon in tandem with the guitar playing. The maelstrom of sound conjured by the two is augmented by choir-like vocal harmonies that rain down upon the two throughout the epic. It's an awesome piece and the intensity level never flags—Twells' playing often assumes the form of a thunderous atmospheric presence hovering over the blurry vocal wail and Bindeman's frenetic attack—though the storm does turn slightly less violent in the closing moments. The take-no-prisoners spirit exemplified by this first volume in the split series makes one looks forward with anticipation to future installments.

May 2008