Review Summary: Grails have honed their craft of eclectic landscape artists by impregnating their vistas with chaos, psychedelia, and art house niche.
Grails have always been quietly prolific, and so it’s no surprise that Deep Politics
will remain just another album collecting dust with the rest of their discography. This isn’t to say their relative obscurity is justified, as they’ve always been one of the most interesting bands to be straddled to the “post-rock” genre tag. They've always set themselves apart from their contemporaries though, for music lumped into the same genre isn’t typically this
cinematic (that is to say, most post-rock would only be suitably scored if sound-tracked to genocides blown up to IMAX proportions). Instead of drawing their logistics from chamber orchestras and classical arrangements, Grails instead chose to exist in a world of grind house fringe music and Nino Rota film scores. And while this type of music will probably only appeal to the coterie of cultist fanatics it’s nonetheless strange and beautiful, leaving one speechless and dripped in strange visions; mouth agape.
is a revolving cinematic projection of eight different vignettes, each of which shrouded in deep occult fog and gauzy imagery. Though they’ve since moved away from their “chamber doom” origins they’ve managed to make this album their “heaviest” to date, as sonic density is maximized through post-production wizardry. Layers of eclectic instrumentation and genres are strung together effortlessly with a connecting thread that makes shifting gears jell without even the slightest
of hiccups. From the soundtracks of meticulously planned heists to spaghetti westerns, Grails surround themselves with the swelling sounds of Ennio Morricone and Francis Lai while exhibiting a muscular and restrained sense of musicianship. Songs such as “Future Primitive”, “All The Colors of the Dark”, and the title track (easily the finest song amongst the eight tracks) conjure up ascetic brood into a maelstrom of longing and demise. Other, more ambient tracks, such as “Corridors of Power” and “Daughters of Bilitis” channel more otherworldly sounds; the former being wedged somewhere between a neo-Samurai flick and a trip hop experiment and the latter floating in the realm of avant neo-noir.
Ironically, the only point in the album where interest shows sign of waning is in the final trilogy of long running epics. It's not that these tracks are particularly boring, it’s just that the same ligneous textures and emotional heights are reached elsewhere on the album in considerably less time and with more conciseness. The bombastic Floydian prog of “Almost Grew My Hair” and the desolate apolistic build up of “I Led Three Lives” are both fantastic, yet veer into the realm of jam band tentativeness. Again, this drop in quality is only relative to the rest of the album and when looked at as separate pieces and allowed to ruminate, they reveal extraordinary qualities (though hesitant to inosculate, album closer "Deep Snow" blends a beautifully confusing gambit of emotions).
isn't your typical "ride the rails" post-rock album. Grails script their own characters, dialogue, and scenes through each of their colossal tracks; content left up to the listener to interpret. Vagueness ends up being the band's best tool, as each song lends itself to the backlight of the listener's imagination. The album wades through the abstract with a strong enough sense of where it's going, making it hard to lose interest in these songs. Seedy cabaret halls lead to manhole steam shrouded alleys, which open up to vast western expanses, and finally, spiritual zenith. It's a visual album, so much so that it refuses to remain ambient. The false climaxes, long buildups, and predictable catharsis of most post-rock acts is eschewed for something more condensed and focused. This isn't to say Grails doesn't adhere to a particular formula, as most songs follow a triptych composition of distinct movements. Sometimes the band even becomes portentous in these shifts, following moments of airy brevity. However, any criticism at this point is simply nitpicking at what stands as one of the year's finest albums. Grails have honed their craft of eclectic landscape artists by impregnating their vistas with chaos, psychedelia, and art house niche. Their latest is a Pangaea meeting of eastern and western sounds into something that is truly difficult to pigeonhole, and further proof that these holistic soundtrackers have really carved out a sound all their own.