Pop / Rock

Wrekmeister Harmonies

Music is as expansive as it is deeply personal. Comprised of a revolving cast of musicians around enigmatic constants JR Robinson and Esther Shaw, collaboration has always been a cornerstone of the group’s creative process. While early albums were written for large ensembles and to be performed in grandiose public spaces, more recent recordings peeled back the layers of orchestral bombast to focus in on the raw emotion at their heart of their compositions. We Love to Look at the Carnage, the group’s latest outing represents some of their most subtle and powerful work to date. The album sees the core duo of guitarist/vocalist Robinson and multi-instrumentalist Shaw augmented with longtime friend and collaborator Thor Harris (Swans) on percussion and for the first time Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) on electronics, introducing surprising new sonics into Wrekmeister Harmonies’ minimalist arrangements without sacrificing their intense intimacy. We Love to Look at the Carnage charts a restless journey beginning in the middle of the night and ending in the small hours of the morning. Robinson’s brooding lyrics grapple with phantoms both real and imagined, apparitions amplified by the feverish anxiety of insomnia. Shaw’s ethereal vocals dueling with Robinson’s baritone create essential tension. Her stellar keyboard and violin work are on full display, driving much of the stripped-down album forward through emotional lines of melody.
In keeping with the album’s stark lyrical content, much of We Love to Look at the Carnage was written in relative isolation. During the deep freeze of the New York winter, the duo decamped from their home in Brooklyn to a cabin in Woodstock. Harris and Stewart were then sent the tracks to contribute additional layers however they were moved to, which were then mixed and edited with producer Martin Bisi at his BC Studios. Like much of Wrekmeister’s music over the years, Carnage draws heavily from literature. Influenced by Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, they find strength in stoicism. Robinson explains: “Stoicism is often misunderstood as being cold and indifferent toward difficult situations but it’s actually more appropriately described as hanging a more positive frame on the circumstances through the practice of negative visualization, that things could always be worse”.
We Love to Look at the Carnage traverses an emotional landscape, through a metaphorical night with moments of calm between the dark storms, each piece guiding us towards dawn and its promise. It is a celebration of the beauty of endurance, the hope in stoically moving against the dark forces that invade our thoughts and lives.

This Viennese guitarist has been working quietly, in all senses of the word, for just over a decade now. Samarium is his fourth solo release in that time and showcases a patience and clarity of technique. As the lengthy title hints, a tonally complex yet scrupulously observed phenomenon continually unfolds until it inhabits a wide vista of sound. In the musical world this is revealed through initially delicate and deliberately plucked notes against a rising hum of chorus. Stigler stretches the first two long pieces into divided movements, suggesting natural process, before releasing a more synthesized arrangement for radio static saturated guitar and piano harmonics. Stigler’s compositions have a little in common with Oren Ambarchi’s more restrained moments or Giuseppe Ielasi at his least abstract. But truthfully his music is on it’s own track… one that is less interested by the density of structures and with a simplicity that is more about clarity than minimalism for it’s own sake. These are themes for traveling deep into the heart of things or observing the sweep of great distances.

‘Mon Rideau Noir’ is the debut solo album from Mimi Secue member Lars Stigler, and it’s a very pleasant surprise. Taking in influence from the classic post rock of Tortoise, the opening track ‘Albatross’ is a masterclass in Rhodes-drenched beauty. Knowing Mimi Secue’s upbeat post-pop I wasn’t really expecting Stigler’s solo jaunt to be so subtly affecting but it's incredibly accomplished, and wonderfully restrained. As the album progresses we get taken further into deep ambient, reminding me of Tim Hecker or Gas, and then down into melancholic post rock again before ending on ten minutes of the most gorgeous organic drone music this side of Stars of the Lid. A seriously good record this is probably my favourite release on the Radian-connected Karate Joe label and a must for fans of dusty post rock everywhere.

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