A seamless sonic journey across terrain both bleak and beautiful.
Greg Moffitt 2010-04-08
In 2005, Red Sparowes released a truly transcendent album in At the Soundless Dawn. This, their third effort, finds them still attempting to top it. 2006’s Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun clearly wasn’t up to the task, and although they’ve had time aplenty to formulate a suitably epic response, it’s still not quite enough. Finding the elusive something to go one better than the perfectly formed …Dawn may in the end prove impossible. Maybe that’s just the way it’s meant to be
In its own right, The Fear… is an impressive piece of work. As inevitable as comparisons with their previous creations are, they shouldn’t detract from what is by anyone else’s standards a major achievement. Post-rock is a decidedly nebulous genre, but Red Sparowes find themselves loosely aligned with the likes of Pelican and Isis (of whom guitarist Bryant Clifford Meyer is also a member). Atmospheric, evocative and often cerebral, it’s both the perfect soundtrack to and the antidote for the tumultuous times we live in.
As always, it’s a solely instrumental soundscape, substituting the subtleties of tweaks in tonal colour and volume for the overt gestures and statements more usually associated with rock vocalists. The end result is a seamless sonic journey across terrain both bleak and beautiful. The chiming, jangly guitars of Meyer and Emma Ruth Rundle lend the sound a maudlin, shoe-gazey quality of which The Cure or The Chameleons would have been proud. The familiar but effective tactics of tension and release at times take them into territory which Gothic rockers Fields of the Nephilim eventually found themselves traversing. Specifically, on the influential Elizium album, which itself drew heavily on Pink Floyd’s skyward tendencies, which are also echoed here.
In the magnificent wake of At the Soundless Dawn, Every Red Heart… came across as rushed, slightly underwhelming and perhaps too self-referential. With The Fear…, the Los Angeles quintet have taken a decisive step forward on every front. Their debut remains the benchmark, but as of now it looks just a little farther away.