Review Summary: Light reflecting off the shard at your throatLight and Death
, the debut LP of Austin-based Glassing, might take place near a precipice on a sunny day.
The record feels suffocating - its guitar feedback, taking the form of thick crystalline dust, chokes within the first second of inhalation. The particles are abrasive, not kind to the eardrums nor the lungs as they settle in; the clouds they form are blinding in this high noon. Glassing’s riffs descend mercilessly, serrated blades slicing through the earth. At the lowest reaches the bass rumbles, distorted by its depth.
And Dustin Coffman’s vocals - if I were to call them keening, I might be implying the presence of grief. Grief doesn’t seem right to describe the pain I hear; I don’t know if any losses are being mourned. Mourning - this is too subdued a term to be used, considering Dustin’s intensity. But it’s also not anger, which is too vindictive - whatever bears down on Light and Death
suppresses its capacity to be hostile. There’s a sharp edge of desperation to Dustin’s shrieks, which never sound strained despite the forcefulness with which they’re expelled. Inhuman, I think, how he sustains this performance throughout the record.
What unites Light and Death
is a callous disregard for predictability, expressed in atypical song structures and the fluidity of its drumming. Rhythms and tempos shift erratically in the span of a single song; “Safe Hate” moves from breathless triple-time to slow, sludged-out hits. This rhythmic malleability means the record is oddly nimble - odd, I say, because Light and Death
also features a crushing weight, a sensation of having been subjugated and bound. The onslaught of every element in “Memorial” - screeches, cutting guitars, breakneck drumming - demonstrates the paradox.
Interestingly, Glassing begin and end Light and Death
on quiet notes - ambiance seeming to settle in on “Life Wrecker”, a serene plucking on the latter half of “Memorial”. It’s surprise on both ends, the sudden blow and then the removal of the harshness we had habituated ourselves to. I don’t think this sort of manipulative beauty is unique to those parts - for instance, the moment before “Heavy Donor” falls back into a chasm, it peaks with tortured hope. It’s a short passage that seems to have disappeared as quickly as it came, but near the very end of the song it makes a triumphant return before ceding once more. The reappearance is so startling because of how inconsequential the passage seems to be - a lot of the motifs are short-lived, after all. To hear it soar and then tumble down again is strangely heartbreaking.
Light and Death
dangles at the precipice. The tension - of fraying rope and nerves - remains near breaking point. I don’t think acceptance of its fate has been reached yet. Maybe it never will be - the rope sways, there’s still lashing out.
The skies are clear. Sunlight beams down at full force.