2008 saw Grails release two records, the first an ep (‘Take Refuge in Clean Living’) and then their third album proper (‘Doomsdayer’s Holiday’). First up we have the ep, and it is evident Grails have advanced beyond their roots in instrumental post-rock and out into the great blue uncharted yonder. With instrumentation as much from the harpsichord and a marxophone as the piano and guitar, it is an interesting and utterly original sound they are developing. The tracks on this release following up from ‘Black Tar Prophecies’ and ‘Burning Off Purities’, and it is here we can witness the maturing of a very unique musical entity. The first few songs build around spiralling guitars and washes of delicate feedback, sounding slightly other-worldly, at once mystic and simultaneously grounded.
’11th Hour’ sees the harpsichord take a prominent role, it is a sublime sounding piece of music. This leads into the track ‘Take Refuge’, a track with strong Middle Eastern influences. This is melded into the bands own strange forms and builds so eloquently to the albums penultimate aural peak further within the song. Utter magickal alchemy is at work within this track, it will humble anyone that has ever attempted to write an original piece of music. This fades into the ether, and we are left salivating, and calmed by the slow twinkling light of ‘Clean Living’ and we are left wondering what exactly it is we have just witnessed.
However the band’s album proper ‘Doomsdayer’s Holiday’ is an altogether darker affair and the heaviest work the band have made to date, pleasing news to folk out the in the Shaman’s readership. The album starts off with a very dark ambient rumble and the detached screams of some poor soul. Straight after this peculiar intro we get ‘Reincarnation Blues’ and it is evident the band have delved even further into obscure instrumentation, before the whole damned thing is overwhelmed with crashing symbols and distorted guitar chord. This is by far the most direct and extrovert Grails have ever been. The songs washes from one musical scene to another in the blink of an eye. One minute we are rejoicing in it’s heavy guitar based rock-out and then immediately we are dropped into opiate infused ambience. It is clear Grails have become one of music’s most innovative and interesting acts.
It is an album that has been expertly constructed, each track develops and lays the foundations for it’s successor whilst retaining it’s own individual power as a stand alone piece. ‘Immediate Mate’ sees the band explore noise and a claustrophobic atmosphere through the use of jarring samples and acidic feedback swirling. Like the ep it is the second half of the record that contains it’s most impressive works. ‘Immediate Mate’ builds and builds in ever steeper climbs into the ethereal until we reach the zenith ‘X-Contaminations’ and final albums closer ‘Acid Rain’. The latter being a strikingly optimistic ending to a very peculiar journey that will take many many listens to unfold and reveal the beauty only true familiarity can unlock. This album will be a friend of mine for a long while yet and for me, album of the year.
Essential works by a contemporary that is blazing ahead of everyone else!
Scribed by: Andrew Sloan