Hiss Tracts
Shortwave Nights


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nash J. CONTRIBUTOR (40 Reviews)
May 27th, 2014 | 66 replies


Release Date: 05/13/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In essence, this is what happens when Godspeed's F#A#∞ meets David Lynch's Eraserhead. And yes, it is as awesome as it sounds.

Not many post-rock albums have a better claim to being the genre’s crowning achievement than Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s F#A#∞. A monumental release in every sense of the word, F#A#∞ consisted of somber melodies highlighted by unsettling ambience, with each track containing orchestration, sweeping crescendos and cinematic bursts of grandiose strings and explosive percussion. Yet, it can be argued that the most memorable parts of the album were not those that demonstrated the band’s overreaching ambition, but those shorter sections which relied on minimalism, ambient waves, and noise to further establish the album’s apocalyptic soundscape. This was best displayed in the six-minute long third movement of “East Hastings,” in which radio signals and harsh buzzing play in the foreground over otherworldly ambience and crescendoing ghostly wails. With their debut LP, Shortwave Nights, Hiss Tracts have essentially taken this concept and stretched it out into forty-five breathtaking minutes.

Yet, it is unfair to compare Shortwave Nights to a work of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Despite the fact that both members of Hiss Tracts, David Bryant and Kevin Doria, are each well-known musicians who have each gained much experience in the world of Canadian-based post-rock (Bryant with Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Doria with Growing), Shortwave Nights is an accomplishment all of its own. It can best be compared to a David Lynch movie; surreal and dark, but always disturbingly rooted in the real world. While the tone of the album is consistently strange, Hiss Tracts never venture off into the abstract or otherworldly. Each song retains a firm grip on reality, allowing Shortwave Nights’s sound to be ultimately inviting.

The atmosphere of the album is one of both dream-like melancholy and subtle terror. Throughout each song, conventional instruments are near-impossible to recognize; layers of ambient noise and droning melodies create incredibly vivid imagery. The band’s use of textures to establish atmosphere is perfectly demonstrated by opener “...Shortwave Nights.” The opener begins with harsh industrial grinding, which, over the course of the song, slowly becomes the background to a heart-wrenching melody until eventually fading into nothing but radio static. There is an unmistakable familiarity to every noise heard during each song, whether it be the mechanical grinding of the opener, the twiddling electronics at the end of “Slowed Rugs,” or the chimes at the beginning of “For the Transient Projectionist.” The band uses these layers of familiar sounds to create soundscapes so realistic that the underlying melodies become overwhelmingly heart-wrenching. As layers are piled up and subsequently stripped away, it is easy to become immersed within the music. Each texture adds something unique to its respective song, changing the tone of the entire track either slowly or instantaneously. “Test Recording At Trembling City” begins with a quiet, peaceful drone. Slowly, the drone increases in volume, becoming more beautiful, yet also more unsettling. About five-minutes into the song, a terrifying onslaught of wind chimes burst in. Without warning, the drone transforms into a high-pitched wail, and the song turns into an ugly mess that barely resembles its tranquil beginning. Since the listener is fully immersed in the music, Hiss Tracts are successfully able to achieve different effects with each song while still managing to hold the listener’s attention, no matter how twisted or bizarre the songs may become.

The structure and flow of Shortwave Nights are perhaps the album’s most peculiar features. No two tracks are completely alike in tone or structure. Due to this, longer pieces with gloomy atmospheres are followed directly by short, chaotic songs. Although occasionally a short interlude will separate two tracks with contrasting tones, they are far stranger than the tracks themselves. One such interlude, entitled “Drake Motel / ‘9 Gold Cadillacs’,” a track which bares a striking resemblance to “BBF3” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, features a harmonica solo followed by a conversation between two men. One of the men, who sounds like he is drunk, rambles pointlessly about his fear of germs and how “The more you love people, the worse they treat you.” This tracks seemingly adds nothing of value to the album other than to make Shortwave Nights more of an overall strange and unique experience. The other interludes, along with certain moments found within some of the songs, share this same problem. Each strange moment or section of a song is intriguing in its own way, but interrupt the album’s overall flow, causing the the album to sound slightly clunky and disjointed at times. Despite this, no track ceases to be interesting, and the unpredictability of each track’s atmosphere adds to the fascinating nature of the album.

Shortwave Nights excels in the same areas as F#A#∞ and other post-rock/ambient albums before it, but in an entirely different way. Hiss Tracts masterfully take everyday sounds and combine them with drones and tragic melodies to forge one of the most unique releases Constellation Records have ever put out. When all is said and done, Shortwave Nights is not meant to be looked as a conventional album in any way. As suggested by its cover, this is the story of that lonesome microphone standing on the side of a dreary, abandoned road, and all of the strange noises it hears throughout the day.



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user ratings (26)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2014


6560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for reading, guys! I highly recommend checking this one out, just don't expect it to be
quite as cool as I made it out to be in the summary. But seriously, this album needs a lot more
love. Easily the best drone/ambient albums I've heard so far this year.

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

insanedrexl1
May 27th 2014


689 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2014


6560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man :]

laughingman22
May 27th 2014


1934 Comments


Eraserhead does have the best soundtrack ever so I might check this out

TheBarber
May 27th 2014


2182 Comments


agreed, the sound on Eraserhead is unreal. And you better be not lying about that summary because I will cut you if I'm dissapointed ^^

Digging: Ulver - Trolsk Sortmetall 1993-1997

Owantjaaaa
May 27th 2014


3403 Comments


Did someone say Eraserhead?
Time to check this out

Digging: Sick/Tired - Dissolution

TheBarber
May 27th 2014


2182 Comments


great review, pos. Constellation Records are the pretty much the only guys I can really trust for great post-rock

Pheromone
May 27th 2014


3860 Comments


God, I love that artwork

Digging: Jeremy Enigk - Return of the Frog Queen

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2014


6560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, the artwork is amazing. There's something so peaceful yet foreboding about the artwork
that I can't seem to put my finger on.

"agreed, the sound on Eraserhead is unreal. And you better be not lying about that summary because I
will cut you if I'm dissapointed"

Not lying, but maybe just exaggerating a little. The album does definitely feel like a work of David
Lynch though, so I mean if you enjoyed Eraserhead's sonic strangeness you should definitely find
something of value here.

guitarded_chuck
May 27th 2014


3306 Comments


"In essence, this is what happens when Godspeed's F#A#∞ meets David Lynch's Eraserhead. And yes, it is as awesome as it sounds."


Well that's an awfully bold statement.

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2014


21799 Comments


great job dude. that summary alone has me interested

Digging: Todd Terje - It's Album Time

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2014


6560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Ins, glad to hear!

"Well that's an awfully bold statement. "

Well to be honest the summary is not meant to be taken completely seriously, but in a lot of ways I
think you'll agree when you listen to the album that Hiss Tracts seem to encapsulate a lot of the same
elements as works by Godspeed You! Black Emperor and David Lynch, and as a result feels like a
distinct combination of the two.

dh198
May 27th 2014


463 Comments


Sounds interesting. Very good review.

ExplosiveOranges
May 27th 2014


3884 Comments


Great review as always, Judio.

Digging: Millicent Waffles - Under Dark Blue Blanket

Riviere
May 27th 2014


723 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Pos for that summary even though it wasn't entirely accurate you sucked my in with it. Clap clap.

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2014


6560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the compliments dh198 and Explosiveoranges :]! Even though I still stand by it I'm sorry if I mislead you with the summary Riviere, hope at least enjoyed the album on some level.

fish.
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2014


22047 Comments


everyone on this site is now going to listen to this because you compared it to godspeed you black
emperor



Digging: Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers

Judio!
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2014


6560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lol good, wouldn't have it any other way.

Riviere
May 27th 2014


723 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Eraserhead" caught me hook line and sinker. Was aight album.

fish.
Contributing Reviewer
May 27th 2014


22047 Comments


the aesthetic exaggerates the gybe influence

not bad so far though



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