Review Summary: Oxford asks: "What's the point?"
Oxford isn’t a place I’d imagine a dystopia to creep into. Full to the brim with well-decorated, prestigious universities and equally full to the brim with bicycles, it’s almost picture perfect to the visiting outsider. It’s used on novelty postcards frequently enough and considered a highly intelligent place simply far
too much. But I guess somewhere along the line, this humble town backlashes - as four students obviously fascinated and immersed in the world of Mogwai found out. Meanwhile, Back in Communist Russia… created the first personal hell of Oxford I have ever had to deal with. It is called Indian Ink
, and it is a two-person society that barely has a moment to make merry before its downfall.
The ordeal is more than a society, though. It’s a confession made out of a woman’s individual, scathing perspective - wishing her problems would just dissolve but feeling helpless. This alone makes the album what it is: a post-rock classic. Ever since post-rock became music for the silent complainer, it’s been even more important for me to rotate Indian Ink
. The music is applied in a way that defies an instrumental necessity, in a way that Young Mountain
or The Earth Is Not A Cold, Dead Place
snub. The wordy characters developed become so abrasive that the entire idea of the album simply evades any namecalling – this is a drama far, far outside any constricting, lame post-rock cliché. An album holding the same amount of experience that Slow Riot
holds for political statement, but converting it to an encompassing, morally wrong lifestyle that couldn’t be addressed better.
For all unravelling patterns in melody, lyricism, theme and emotion, Emily Gray’s voice is a fit straight from “No Cigar”. Its menacing riffs build and build and build as a separate entity, until the song is as a march, amidst deafening percussion and blaring synth. Meanwhile, Gray’s voice rambles just below the surface, difficult to decipher, ready to disappear. At first, it’s a distraction to hear this whispery, tiny voice become lost below a harsh climax atmosphere, but what glorifies her vocal work is the album’s biggest talking point – the words.
I shoved fistfuls of ice into my eyes and mouth and thought: Now I am away from it all. The air is warm, is black, smells of vinegar acids - wanting to dissolve to a vapour, to disappear, to be ice-cold, knife sharp, to cut, to sear, to burn, but the light frays my nerves, hurts my eyes and then it's over. You're ill; I'm drinking, it's morning…
Part of me doesn’t want to go any further; perhaps society and character share more in common than said, but when has human interaction ever been so gritty, so cruel? The human being in Indian Ink is amidst her own personal dystopia, captured in a household of domestic abuse, alcoholism and neglect. She is trapped inward, isolated by her fallen romantic partner. Most painful of all, she takes it: she cries “What’s the point?”
as if to embrace her vicious microcosm with no intent of escape. It simply doesn’t feel right to hear Emily Gray’s decline fill the room, attempting to convince one’s self it’s an indirect perception - an invented story. Either way, it’s a reality, and it’s so obviously wronged Gray – her words plummet downward in such a fashion that, inevitably, this is her story. Just on “Delay-Delay-Attack” her words are blunt, harrowing displays, cut off of a thicker, deeper story. Each word is almost neutrally droned, her voice carrying monotony to the speech poetry. As she speaks, the cold environment around her rises and falls together, eerie effects and lingering guitar lines. Her words are the depressing part, but the music shares the emotion in a way Gray’s blank, distant murmurs are intended.
Her shocking snippets are a message carried through the backdrop. It’s undeniable that each musician in the band helps depict the song writing; the focal point of the album certainly is the wordplay, but everyone taps into this knowledge right away. Tim Croston somehow works in his quirky keyboard and synthesiser lines, which enable the band’s music to become more variable; in “Delay-Delay-Attack” it creates a brooding, ambient surrounding after his own weird, alarming notes introduce the song even more emphatically. The guitar work, again, is strung together from a few different concepts; at times, it’s startlingly quiet and stuck in a dark, endless pattern. Such is in “Sacred Mountain”, where instead of simply shattering into climax, it plays the song to its end, accompanied by stark, high-reaching piano notes. And, at others, it’s a thrash of distortion, placed so heavily that Gray has to find a way in and let her story clash beside the din.
Three months later, trudging through daffodils and dog***, he talked facetiously about having gone full circle. He dragged symbolism out of football matches and nausea. We looked drugged and battered. I felt him force the roles around, making me nurse him as though the emotional betrayal was something that I’d done to him. He caught the four-sixteen back home, leaving me standing on the platform with his sweat on my skin and cum in my hair. "Please keep in touch…!" I couldn't see the point.
On “Morning After Pill”, Gray finally sounds livid, pouring emotion out as if she really means it. She’s racing the tempo of the drumbeats and angst distortion that is now below her for once, and in the end her attempt seems - as she dutifully acknowledges - futile. It’s almost inevitable, when Indian Ink
hammers out its unhappy ending, to wonder how the protagonist’s significant other would write their concept album. Would he have a response to the accusations of abusiveness, sexually and romantically? Would he have rehabilitated the girl who survives, basically, on a drug addiction? Of course, most importantly, why did any of this happen? One thing I feel certain about, though, is that his version wouldn’t be as wildly, bleakly open as this. Whether or not Emily Gray is the victim or the witness is uncertain, but her character scarcely makes an edit – her rants are as much self-portraits as accusations. She recalls being called a ‘slut’ by her father, her absolute collapse on alcohol and drugs, and eventually her ability to do nothing but just give up. It’s a certainty, as far as any listener will be concerned, that our ‘hero’ means every word, and can honestly say she’s suffered. The detailed descriptions of clothes, sexual slurs and morbid violence – not forgetting all her lost love – are just too vivid. It’s an album painted by a surrealist group, coming true only for their belief. And when it sounds as certain as this, you can only cross your fingers and hope Emily Gray has put this together from films, newspapers and horrible reports. Unfortunately, when the compassion seeps into her delicate voice, I can’t help but pity her.