thisquietarmy: Aftermath
Basses Frequences

Eric Quach's fourth thisquietarmy recording, Aftermath, finds the Montreal-based experimentalist stripping his sound back to its guitar-oriented essence. Of course, thisquietarmy has always been a guitar-centered project but Quach has at times elaborated upon the core sound by including drum parts, for example. On this outing the thisquietarmy sound is captured in its purest and most elemental form, with nothing but Quach's raw guitar attack in play (one conspicuous deviation from the template occurs when a synthesizer pattern, as bright as a carnival melody, surfaces halfway through “The Iron Harvest” in concert with a pounding drum). Which isn't to say that the album's sound is minimal; at this stage, he's become a masterful manipulator of guitar-related treatments so the overall sonic universe is immense and wide-ranging.

There's an epic quality to the material that's consistent with the concept underpinning the project (the material's epic reach is reinforced by a track title such as “Heaven and Earth”), which centers on the idea of a post-apocalyptic setting, “fallen angels as unexploded ordnances” (ordnance referring to military weaponry such as cannons or artillery), and the imminent dawn of a new era that, phoenix-like, might emerge from that post-nuclear winter (the project was inspired in part by German artist Anselm Kiefer, whose paintings are likewise well-known for their epic character). In short, while an oppressive heaviness shadows much the material, moments of hopefulness also emerge.

Through a thick scrim of crackle, fuzz and mini-detonations, ethereal guitar patterns swell into a dense, blurry mass in the opener “The Hierarchy of Angels.” Bright shards penetrate the haze as they ripple forth, attempting to extricate themselves from the swirling, turbulent whole. A stately theme can be heard faintly shuddering at the cyclonic center of “Finding the Fallen,” and “Unearthing the Past” ultimately brings the project to resolution in relatively peaceful manner. Aftermath is hardly, shall we say, ambient music, as attested to by “Melted Lead on Ashen Canvas,” which works itself into a seething cauldron of guitar blaze and elemental drum strikes for nearly ten minutes, Quach stoking its fire until it becomes an all-consuming howl. Six tracks are titled and indexed but the album runs together as an uninterrupted whole, all the better to experience it as a singular portrait of transformative physical events. At forty-six minutes, the album's perfectly timed: there's enough present to make a complete statement but no so much that weariness sets in due to overlength.

May 2010