Storm and Stress
Under Thunder and Fluorescent Light


4.5
superb

Review

by Winesburgohio STAFF
August 14th, 2017 | 23 replies


Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Formlessness

To get the obvious out of the way, Under Thunder is a difficult album, and one of the reasons why it's so difficult, on the fifth and fiftieth listen alike, is that it's difficult to pin down exactly what makes it so diffuse. It's not melodious, but it's ***-sure not atonal; the chord resolutions on the first track and the triptych which comprises the albums metaphorical and literal center are sublime and resonant, no matter what the incongruous percussion is doing in the background. The drums, guitar and plaintive vocals don't cohere, following entirely different schematics that only occasionally overlap, but for listeners of free improv, or indeed math rock -- the two rubrics the album most obviously falls under, perhaps, though there are flourishes of midwest emo, free jazz and Shadow-Ring-esque experimental rock -- this is hardly a detraction, or even new. The guitar tone, which sounds to my peasant's ears like an amp has been dialled up to 11 while the guitar volume is stuck on one, is unusual but hardly unlovely, quite the opposite.

Indeed the album is frequently beautiful, not by dint of crescendo or obvious tonal resolutions but through little moments, soft sighs emitted to the filament, plumes of smoke curling away from a wall. It's understated even as the performers yield tones and textures from their instruments that, even when ugly, require tremendous expertise (take it from me: getting a guitar to emulate a violin, as on the penultimate track, requires very precise scraping; to achieve the percussionistic guitar used as a motif throughout the triptych, one must pull one guitar string atop another and play at the very bass -- segueing back into regular notes, which here seems so easy, is nigh-on impossible).

But I see this album being a tough sell; if I haven't worked it out, seem incapable of demystifying the arcane nebuli, how can I possibly proselytize on its behalf? The album cover hardly helps, a bland, lazy design that looks more like a copy of a friends band that they ripped for you than one of the finest albums I've heard. It doesn't even ask to spread work-of-mouth; this, the cover says, is for you, and you alone. Perhaps it's better than way; math rock is nerdy and uncool as it is, and this is like "advanced calculus" rock. We all know how often mathematics majors get invited to parties.

I'm stumped for reference points, is part of the problem. They sound nothing like Don Cab or Battles, with whom they share members (Storm and Stress are weird that way; a retroactive supergroup). U.S. Maple? Maybe, but there's no snide deconstructions or excoriations of rock tropes here. Manuel Mota? They share short, tonally clustered phrases but Storm and Stress are far from avant-garde for avant-garde's sake (avant-garbage?).

Or perhaps they sound like all of them, but all of the referents are so disparate, the influences so perfectly enmeshed, that one can only throw up one's hands and argue originality through admixion.

I'm inclined to think though, that the reason this album is so difficult is that it is that rare thing, in any genre -- truly formless. Things never resolve how you expect; the tracklisting deliberately juxtaposes different elements of the band, eschewing anything that could be construed as cohesion. The serpentine percussion and crystalline guitar tone cancel each other out so frequently it's hard to believe you're not listening to silence, but a soft calamity pierces through anyway, rays of fluorescent light (ehhhh) shot through a cloud, refracted. The music requires a couple of listens to break the ice, pierce the glinting armour, but even when that's done you'd be hard press to map out any kind of structure; you're left with the music and nothing else and that's enough.

The effect is disorientating, beguiling, and utterly addictive, a hybrid of math rock and free improvisation which combines the melodic interplay of the former with the texture-focused latter. I've laughed and cried to this album, as trite as that feels. If, as John Coltrane argued and augured, Free Jazz would, through offering a new sound, elicit new emotions, his prognostications were proved correct here. There's no other album that sounds like this, sure, but more importantly there's no other album that makes me feel like this. So no, despite votaries best efforts, I can't see this album ever heading "best of x" music lists, or even shortlists. We'll have to settle for it's existence, and the joy that of all the albums out there, there's one which resonates like [i]this[i].

I'll take two.



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user ratings (34)
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
clavier
Emeritus
August 14th 2017


1173 Comments


a wines review, eh? what a blessed day

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2017


4081 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

when u accidentally start a google doc while high planning to write a short story and this comes out instead :O :O :O relatable content

luci
August 14th 2017


12844 Comments


lewis will be very happy to see this

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2017


4081 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lewis was right and i was wrong #3444322169

verdant
Emeritus
August 14th 2017


2492 Comments


"soft sighs emitted to the filament, plumes of smoke curling away from a wall."

ahhhhhh teach me how to be, like, good at stuff and also yes i'm going to listen to this album right now

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2017


4081 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

first you must find an albino child

ianblxdsoe
August 14th 2017


1921 Comments


wines i love you

verdant
Emeritus
August 14th 2017


2492 Comments


i am an albino child!!! what is the next step

Conmaniac
August 14th 2017


27695 Comments


"seem incapable of demystifying the arcane nebuli, how can I possibly proselytize on its behalf?"

!!!!!!!!!!!!

nice review tho winesy :o sounds exquisite

verdant
Emeritus
August 14th 2017


2492 Comments


but don caballero are also good sach

cylinder
August 14th 2017


2736 Comments


finally this gets a review! really impressive how well you managed to describe this stuff. amazing album

Sinternet
Contributing Reviewer
August 14th 2017


26640 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good album

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2017


4052 Comments


"which sounds to my peasant's ears"
Wines is a West African prince, confirmed. Deservedly so, fantastic review. A few typos here and there, and a formatting issue with the italics towards the end, but those last couple paragraphs are beautiful

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2017


4081 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

tyty i'm keeping the formatting issue because i think it looks pretty!!! needless to say: i love ian but i do NOT love Don Caballero, they've never really hooked me and i find myself yawning and looking at my wrist whenever i play an album of theirs thru :O :O :O

MotokoKusanagi
August 14th 2017


4290 Comments


glad this got a review

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2017


4081 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i found god in the chord resolutions on this album tbh

TheWrenKing
August 14th 2017


1718 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

oh shit i love you

butcherboy
August 14th 2017


9464 Comments


I do love your writing style, Wine.. beside the fact that it's good, it's also very distinctly you which is a tough ol' thing to pull off.. I want to read some short stories..

Winesburgohio
Staff Reviewer
August 14th 2017


4081 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i'll show you some "short stories" *unzips trousers* *a ream of paper with the title "Air Supply" falls out* so yea tell me what you think

verdant
Emeritus
August 14th 2017


2492 Comments


can confirm this Air Supply he speaks of will make you har-....uh, i mean, laugh and cry and feel things!



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