Review Summary: This is what a modern masterpiece sounds like.
When Have A Nice Life released their seminal double-album Deathconsciousness
in 2008, it was hard to imagine how the world of music could really be the same afterwards. Naturally, a vast majority of musicians didn't even know Have A Nice Life existed, but it was difficult to listen to Deathconsciousness
and come out of it unchanged. The tragic atmospherics of 'Bloodhail' and the massive weight of 'Hunter' were awe-inspiring, astonishing, original(!), and beyond possible description at the time. Now, three years later, Dan Barrett, one half of the Have A Nice Life project, has released his first solo album as Giles Corey. And every single thing that was said about Deathconsciousness
three years ago can and will be said about Giles Corey
today. It's a similar concept--reverb-heavy, deeply melancholic home-made music that sounds like it came from a whole different world accompanied by a 100-something page book. But this time around, the music sounds more organic, more tragic, simply heavier.
As a whole, Giles Corey
lacks the physical weight of Deathconsciousness.
It doesn't have the huge, intimidating drums, the tight grooving bass jams, or the terrifying electric guitars to throw around, but it makes up for it by creating a bleak, lonesome, deeply intimate and isolating world for the listener to become engulfed in. It takes the basic folk music template and turns it completely on its head. Songs like 'Blackest Bile' and 'A Sleeping Heart' are beautiful, sad, intimate acoustic numbers, primarily featuring Dan Barrett's beautiful voice against a backdrop of acoustic guitars and various instrumental bits and pieces, drawing you into his world, but feeling almost uplifting at times.
On the other hand, songs like 'The Haunting Presence' create the exact opposite atmosphere. Distorted, screaming vocals ring over terrifying, pounded pianos and absolutely haunting guitars and drums. It's certainly the token 'play this song when you're alone at night and want to be scared ***less' track of the album, but it's also just one of the many insanely powerful pieces of music Dan Barrett creates on Giles Corey,
which then progresses through the beautiful, Bon Iver-styled low-key indie pop of 'Grave Filled With Books' and the sample-aided atmospheres of 'Empty Churches.'
But it's on late-album highlights 'No One Is Ever Going To Want Me' and 'Buried Above Ground' where Dan Barrett's prowess really shines. Both songs have beautiful acoustic build-ups to massive climaxes, but approach their concept in remarkably powerful and different manners. 'No One Is Ever Going To Want Me' is a slow, tragic build, featuring Dan's always-gorgeous voice over his trademark acoustic guitars, before finally, over six minutes in, the song simply explodes. It's hard to even explain, it's the kind of moment that would make you have to pull your car over to the side of the road just to catch your breath. The power of the final quarter of the song is immense, crushing, and indescribable, and the bleak, deathly landscapes that are painted by the music on the track are absolutely stunning.
On the flipside, 'Buried Above Ground' has a short build to a massive extended finale of bursting, triumphant horns, starting off so hopeful before the final melody of the album sets in and the crushing melancholy that has pervaded the whole record begins to leak from every seam of the song. It's another one of the many insanely powerful, impossible to describe moments that come with the huge experience of listening through Giles Corey.
No, it's not an easy listen. It's a long, agonizing, incredibly bleak album, but it is beautiful, powerful, and life-changing. This is easily the best album of the year so far, if not one of the greatest works of art ever recorded. Don't miss out.