Economy of Effort

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Grails Burning Off Impurities (2007)

Grails - Burning Off Impurities

2007, Temporary Residence

Style: post-rock, psych rock

When Western bands play music with strong non-Western influences (I’m avoiding terms like “ethnic” and “world music” here), the results often fall into a few familiar tracks. There’s the “Van Halen effect” (named after the many ‘80s hair metal bands that attempted to copy Van Halen but only cloned the surface elements, without truly understanding the substance of what they were imitating), where the artist only produces a shallow facsimile of the influences pulled from. Then there’s the “oil and water effect”, where the artist attempts to take two very different elements and fails to find a way to mix them into a natural and fluid combination. And then there are those attempts that are just so ham-fisted as to be painfully bad in every way.

When an artist manages to avoid these traps, however, they have an opportunity to create something beautiful. Grails‘ Burning Off Impurities is a good example of this, an album that incorporates various non-Western influences into a musical style informed by modern psychedelic and post-rock, and soaked in reverb.

Structure is very loose here, and the sustained, reverberated guitars create an ethereal sound. Indeed, the whole album feels like something you don’t directly experience, but only witness through a haze, like barely seeing a boat on the water through thick coastal fog. The experience feels very indirect, and the elements of the music are just out of reach. Tracks are not songs so much as melodies that emerge from the haze like a plane breaking through the clouds, and seep right back into the haze when done. The music, thankfully, is not as awkward and bumbling as my metaphors. :)

It’s very easy to get lost in this album, and although I wouldn’t categorize the tracks as being overly “samey”, the aloof nature of the music can make it easy for the listener to lose focus. Multiple listens are necessary before one can get a good handle on what’s going on, and even still I find me forcing myself to focus on the music and not get lost in the fog. When I am focused, however, the rewards are great. Another great Temporary Residence release. That label is having one hell of a 2007 so far.

Grails - Burning Off Impurities

(live at the Spanish Moon in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on May 5, 2007)