Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: Grails: "Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 1,2,3" (Important)

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Monday, October 02, 2006

Grails: "Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 1,2,3" (Important)

Grails, I have to admit, are a band that I have not paid much attention to despite hearing a number of promising tracks over the years. There is only so much instrumental music one guy can take and when it came round to listening to earlier Grails releases, I've been pretty burned out and wanted to listen to other things.

I have enjoyed tracks such as "Canyon Hymn" from the "Burden Of Hope" album, but have never felt inclined to purchase any of the Portland, Orgeon quartet's earlier work. However, fast foward to the present, and a number of people on various forums and sites are claiming that "Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 1,2,3" as one of the best (instrumental) releases of the year.

Grails do have a fantastic pedigree when you consider previous albums have been released by labels such as Neurot Recordings and Temporary Residence. This one, however, comes out on Important Records, whose roster includes Acid Mothers Temple, Larsen and James Blackshaw. I was certainly fascinated by all the praise and had to hear this album.

"Black Tar Prophecies..." absolutely justifies all of the accolades as it is rich in instrumentation and diversity. The hackneyed 'quiet/loud' formula is completely blown out of the water here and Grails have created an album that is totally engrossing. In fact, Boomkat felt inclined to hail it as
"quite simply one of the most original and inspiring albums we've heard this year"

Starting off with the outstanding "Back To The Monestary", tribal rythmns (think Liars' last album) clash with waves of reverberated guitar, while acoustic guitar fights to become centre of attention. The track builds purposefully, with the drum rythmns becoming more dominant, before it ends far too early. The instrumentaton is so good, that you want it it to continue much longer than the actual 5 minutes.

"Bad Bhange Recipe" follows and starts very eerily, with sparse sound effects and echoed drums. It reminds me of a more mystical Cinematic Orchestra.

"Belgian Wake- Up Drill", meanwhile, underlines "Black Tar's..." eclectic influences, kicking off with almost Vangelis like synths and urgent strings, before a monsterous riff, a la Black Sabbath, thunders its way in. This track is certianly heavy, and is all the better for it.

"Smokey Room", a brilliant acoustic and slide guitar piece, helps to bring out a calming aura. While "Black Tar Frequencies" starts of quietly enough, but the ominious sounding drums warn you that something big is coming. The drums become more echoed and chanting can be heard in the background, as off-kilter piano notes veer the track off in another tangent.

Most of the tracks offer something interesting, but none more so than album standout "Stray Dog". This is a John Fahey influenced number, with skillfully played acoustic guitars starting proceedings off. The song builds, adding different layers of guitars (and even banjo) . The music explodes around the 4 minute mark. It's absolutely stunning, this is the music I would have liked to soundtrack the excellent HBO series "Deadwood".

Following this is the spooky "Erosion Blues", before the slow-burning album closer "Black Tar Prophecy". This 8-minute epic starts with banjo picking combined with dark drones and washes of sound, interspersed with field recordings. This again evokes images of the dusty trails and roads of the wild west. The song really takes off halfway through, using purposeful drumming and five or six inter-weaving guitar parts that all combine, each part as important as the next, to stunning effect.

"Black Tar Prophecies" easily justifies the plaudits surrounding it. It is highly original and a breath of fresh air on the instrumental scene. It has a mystical aura about that that heightens its impact, while every single track is captivating, although "Stray Dog" and "Black Tar Prophecy" are standouts. It is well worth purchasing and definitely one of the best albums of the year.

Order "Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 1,2,3" here, or alternatively listen first here. The band are touring the US right now, with dates to follow in Europe before Easter 2007.


At 04 October, 2006, Anonymous Lenty1 said...

Good interview. It would be great to see them live even if it is "just" (as many people see them) a lap-top set. Some live instruments over the top are nice though. Hopefully the balance between electronics and instruments doesn't shift too far although their influences such as Amber don't cause me to worry too much.

At 07 October, 2006, Anonymous Flesym said...

Haha, Just Got It Yesterday.
Been Waiting For This.
And It's Beyond My Expectations.
Amazing Band. Love'em Since "Burden Of Hope", But These Prophecies Are Widening Their Musical Horizons.
Nice Review.

At 07 October, 2006, Blogger Micky67 said...

Yes, its a contnder for album of the year. I hear new aspects everytime I listen to it.


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