Review: Gridfailure ‘When The Lights Go Out Vol. III’

Anyone who has been through a power cut (power outage to our US friends), will be familiar with the considerable inconvenience and panic this evokes, such is the effect of a ‘gridfailure’. This same sense of foreboding and uncertainty can also result from repeated listens to Valley Cottage, New York’s Gridfailure aka David Brenner.

Gridfailure ‘When The Lights Go Out Vol. III’

With Brenner‘s lust for constantly creating music that, unlike the UK’s train network, the frequency of his output is often both guaranteed and reliable. As with the prior volumes in the series, Vol. III has been released to coincide with the Halloween/Samhain season with an aptly designed cover featuring shadowy trees and gas lamps that evoke the kind of settings to be found in the works of Arthur Conan Doyle and HP Lovecraft. The album features many a guest turn including Jeff Wilson (Chrome Waves/Deeper Graves etc), Dan Emery (Thetan), Benjamin Levitt (Meglophobe), and David’s nephew Isaac Campbell. Quite an ensemble.

The Thought of what May Lie in the Yard… may open with the sound of crickets, but unlike Anti-Corp’s The Magnolia Sessions, this isn’t followed by mellow meditative country-folk. Instead, you’re met with some truly menacing ambient sounds such as one might experience from the likes of Lustmord. Somnambulance Disorientation is akin to a twisted lullaby which you would struggle to get to sleep to, let alone a child. The Watcher features birdsong which always makes one smile, especially first thing in the morning. However, this is soon met by the uglier, harsher drone like tones of a band like Earth, and for some unknown reason, the Coen Brothers debut feature Blood Simple (my favourite film of theirs incidentally) comes to mind.

Following Gridfailure’s posts on Instagram I’m struck by the amount of storms and heavy rain that hits his neck of the woods and this is reflected in It’s Still Out There. Taken in conjunction with the eerie sound of passing trains as well as the track’s title, I would say I probably won’t be moving out there any time soon. The Disappearing Floor has a more restrained quality compared to its predecessors, while When Death Occurs Within One’s Own Dream features a beautiful shimmering guitar line from Steve Truglio that helps give the track a shoegaze dreamlike quality.

The album possesses an overall feeling of dread and an omnipresent sensation of there being an intangible and unseen threat…

The Shape is the shortest track on the album and one of my favourites. The title is undoubtedly a reference to the name originally ascribed to Michael Myers from the Halloween film series and coincidentally there is a musical nod to John Carpenter, with some rich synth action courtesy of Jeff Wilson. Now It’s in Here contains elements of cool noir jazz which mixed with noise/industrial elements isn’t too far removed from something I would have expected to find on the Signora Ward Records label. Glorious.

The Unthinkable reminds me of Lalo Schifrin’s score for the first Dirty Harry movie with its 70s inflections, making it the perfect accompaniment for the Scorpion to stake out his next victim. The album comes full circle with Ghostyards and the return of both the crickets (no not Buddy Holly) and Dan Emery‘s Theremin, helping mark the end of yet another roller-coaster journey courtesy of Gridfailure.

The album possesses an overall feeling of dread and an omnipresent sensation of there being an intangible and unseen threat, which when aligned with the album’s goal of ‘placing the listener in precarious, dire circumstances’, makes sense. Simply put, instead of Monster Mash, Thriller, etc, why not put this on for an infinitely more interesting and original listen during Halloween? 

Label: Independent
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Scribed by: Reza Mills