Review Summary: A mechanism of the inner realms
Supergroups are a hit and miss type of deal. Sometimes the conflict of creative juices is just too polarizing to form anything cohesive, and sometimes the content is haphazard to the point of annoyance. Needless to say however, there are some supergroups that can release enthralling, complex and beautiful music for the ears of eager fans.
While some groups like Blotted Science and T.R.A.M. are chief examples of absurdly competent musicians combining their collective skills to create bogglingly complex arrangements, Vaura's abstraction is a result of a flood unorthodox, avante-garde perpetuity. Spearheaded by Toby Driver of Kayo Dot and maudlin Of The Well, its immediately clear that this release will sit comfortably beyond the confines of the status-quo. With the singular wealth of creative energy vested in Toby Driver's genius, the supporting cast further lends itself to this faculty. With the guitarist Kevin Hufnagel 'repping admired bands like Dysrhythmia and Gorguts, the form on Selenelion is just as wonderful as the function.
Although primarily rooted in post-rock, Selenelion could well be considered a progressive function due to its psychedelic experimentation and dabbling in black metal. Essentially, this album really cannot be compared to anything as its rich density further unfolds a profound layer of diverse craftsmanship on each listen. Drawing comparisons with the beautiful cover art, Vaura's musical work is a bright and prismatic stroll through a dream like state of malicious melancholy; steered by vaporous dark undertones resting beneath the glossy surface.
Selenelion is a challenging listen as it doesn't lend itself to momentous hooks or trivial dynamics. Instead its all about subtly here (like most of Toby Driver's endeavors), as the album holds a generally uniform sound throughout (although refreshing bouts of agression are welcomed at impecable times). To pick this post-rock beast apart takes a patient and attentive listen to absorb the quiet nuances and rich layering, like the haunting progressions on the album's arguably strongest track, Obsidian Damascene Sun.
Aesthetically, the production on this album is superb. Being a consolidation of post-rock tendencies with metallic insinuations, Vaura had no choice but to meticulously produce this album to make half of the genius at work clearly audible. Obviously barring ethereal progressions, the quietly meandering melodies that litter this album (like the intro to En/Soph) communicate with climaxing zeniths not unlike the competencies of ISIS or Tool. Its this balance of welcoming mood and buried musical treasure that make Selenelion such a wonderful vacation destination for the musical escapist in all of us.
The production thus lends itself wonderfully to the stellar and indulgent instrumentation. Woven throughout are suitably placed acoustic sections that contrast and foil wonderfully with the distortion. The scales and time signatures are always fluid yet apparently complex in detail, with many layers of instrumentation intermingling at any given moment, not unlike the more bombastic explorations of Choirs Of The Eye or Gamma Knife. Furthermore the superbly competent drumming handled by Charlie Schmid always keeps an interesting duality of mood with airy cymbal work and a healthy attentiveness to the toms, providing memorable and varied rhythms to carry the weight of the agreeably subdued synth effects.
Josh Strawn provides a wonderful set of vocal chords for this album, usually using a haunting croon that sits somewhere between a toned down Michael Gira and Aaron Turner of ISIS. However, what Strawn accomplishes exceeding well at is his variation. He his every soaring climax with a misty precision and even throws a few well executed raspy growls in for good measure. Quite significantly, furthermore, is how well the vocal effects are placed. With flawless precision, every canyon sized echo and roomy reminiscence feels natural and fitting to the music, maintaining the archaically mystical vibe of the album.
There is a flood of imaginative artistry at work here, and Selenelion's sublime weave of dense layers will keep the patient listener coming back again and again. Vaura's debut is no doubt one of the better post-genre releases of 2012, so let this majestic steed carry you unto the unknown and mysterious realms of dreamstates and be dazzled the whirling, patternesque tapestry of color that unfolds before you.