Saturday, September 19, 2009

Grails (#6, 2008)

Absinthe, expeditions to mysterious, exotic locales.
Seeking Grails, that perfect temple sound - forever.

"Predestination Blues" from Doomsdayer's Holiday (2008)

I took awhile to connect with Portland's Grails**, for some reason grouping them with Sunn O))) and Earth. But they don't exactly play that kind of deep drone-doom, not sure what I was thinking. Once I gave them a real listen, especially over a few albums, they keep rising in my mind. It is instrumental guitar music, often with a cinematic feel. But the mood is Eastern, maybe of a '30s explorer-adventurer cresting a Himalayan mountain, sighting an ornate Shangri-La in the valley below, entering its jade temples, to smoke the local mind-expanding roots, and finding the legendary artifact - in your mind!!

The last three albums are all excellent, as is the EP Interpretations of Three Psychedelic Rock Songs From Around The World (2005). Which is exactly what it sounds like: covers of iconic mind-melters from Flower Travellin' Band (Japan), Gong (France), and The Byrds (USA). 2008 saw both Take Refuge in Clean Living (great but a tad short) and Doomsdayer's Holiday (greater and intricately woven). They each have a wide variety of material, all worth the journey of discovery. But I think the nod goes to Burning Off Impurities (2007), for the open-vista desert hide-and-go-escape "Silk Rd."

I honestly wish there was more to say, but it's more than difficult (and tedious) to describe the specific tones of different songs. And although the playing is first rate, it's really the ability to conjure a very effective feel that makes the records so engaging. Earlier this year, Grails released the dvd Acid Rain (2009), and TM+BC at least dig it (#6 - just like me!). It's got videos for most of Doomsdayer's, a song each from the the previous two, in-studio footage making Interpretations, a couple of live gigs (which are a real revelation). The videos are... weird, collaged up from found sources by the drummer. It's interesting - but with this band, I really prefer the mental images to having a new dvd. Unusual for me.

Going back earlier, there was apparently significant changes in personnel (including a mysterious permanent disappearance) and style (unknown). But we'll cross that bridge into the cursed ruins of Kemel'ze when we get there.

The Burden of Hope

** In fact, Grails weren't even on the original 2008 Top 10 list, back in April. (Sorry, The Asteroid No. 4!)

No comments: