Review Summary: A pinnacle of ambient/glitch music, October Language is an affecting meditation on melancholy and decay.
In 2006, New Orleans was a mess. Hell, it’s still a goddamn mess, with houses in disrepair due to sloppy remodeling jobs (that were funded by our trustworthy and always-dependable government!), whole neighborhoods that are still in ridiculous disrepair, virtually untouched since Hurricane Katrina ravaged them, and other problems. Belong’s October Language
was recorded pre-ravaging, but it might as well be a reflection on those horrific events, which were experienced firsthand by this New Orleans-native duo. Each piece on October Language
is wistful and nostalgic, filled with memories of a better time; yet most are on the edge of corroding, from losing all focus on their simple but effective melodies into hopeless decay: it’s a simple metaphor for what Belong’s hometown has sadly become.
On another hand, disregarding the whole Katrina thing, October Language
works just as well on a personal level, for me and for others. Its distorted ambience; its shoegaze-light feel; its spurring of feelings such as nostalgia and melancholy---it’s the type of album that anyone can relate to. Yet, despite its obvious beauty, I’ve found it hard for me to really classify October Language
. On one hand, it’s an ambient album: songs are freeform and floating, never becoming particularly singular or obvious, keeping ordinariness and normality at bay. On another, it’s a shoegaze album: every piece is layered and layered with distortion and feedback, and there are gaspingly beautiful melodies to be discovered underneath, each minimalistic and poignant. I could be indolent and call it a drone album---in the vein of such luminaries as Birchville Cat Motel or Natural Snow Buildings---but there’s so much more going on here, in terms of dynamics and decomposition, that limiting this to such a term would be severely understating the case. In short, maybe October Language
doesn’t need a bullshi
t, limiting classification; maybe it speaks well enough for itself.
That being said, there’s still no doubt that October Language
is a remarkable album; a moving portrait of melancholy and sadness through varied and meaningful instrumentals. Belong never let these pieces get overly interminable or exasperating, slicing up bite-sized pieces that are easily consumable for even the most virgin of listeners to experimental music. Each track swells with vigor and grace, scaling one peak after another. October Language
’s best pieces---"The Door Opens the Other Way”, “Remove The Inside”, “I Never Lose, Never Really”---are as good as ambient (okay, so I am being indolent here) music gets, each being dynamic enough to be interesting, as in they build from quiet, meandering tones to breathtaking sections of unsettling noise. Thankfully, these pieces never become overly cluttered or chaotic enough to be completely inaccessible. They’re just engaging enough to lose yourself in; nothing more.
is filled to the brim with affecting and heartrending moments; it’s up to the listener to unearth the moments that affect them the most. So, in short, some of my favorite moments in October Language
: the opening build-up from serene to chaotic in “I Never Lose”, which ushers in the album nicely; the scatterbrained feel of “Who Told You This Room Exists?”, which always feels as if it’s on the brink of putrefaction; the heavy, droning middle of “All Equal Now”, which is so loud and enveloping it’s nigh-impossible to not get hopelessly and wonderfully lost in its abyss. These are simply personal favorites: there’s a multitude of similar, equally emotional happenings throughout October Language
’s forty-five minutes, each one relatable, each one destined to form and become your sort of own personal soundtrack, whether you’re contemplating a city that’s been shot to hell or walking tiredly to school or just trying to sleep. It’s a flexible, wide-reaching album, the type that, once you first listen, you find that it’s hard to ever stop.