Review Summary: Your patience will be rewarded.The Great Awakening
sounds like anything but. It's a very slow-to-unravel piece that simmers at a low burn, occasionally sending a spark flaring into the night sky only to see it parachute back to the Earth and dissipate. Still, there's something mysterious - and almost sinister - about Shearwater's tenth album. Its folk atmosphere gives it a lush beauty which can't be denied, but there are little moments scattered about that make the whole thing deeply unsettling - eerie pauses, discordant synth lines, ritualistic drums, a choir of howler monkeys (no, really - they're credited as backing vocalists) - and it's strange enough to draw you in a little more each time you listen. It's an undeniable rabbit hole, but your patience will be rewarded.
It seems fitting that Shearwater should release something so daring and mystical this time around. It's a milestone record in a few ways - namely that it's the tenth, but also because it arrives on the heels of their longest-ever gap between full-lengths. The Great Awakening
seems indicative of that prolonged creative and emotional reflection, offering us something starkly different from anything we've received from this band in recent years but that also feels elaborately composed and thoroughly cultivated. There's depth within depth.
Casual passers-by will take note of the obvious highlights: 'Highgate's explosions, 'No Reason's spectral atmosphere, the ominous prowl of 'Laguna Seca's beat, the fervent rock energy that 'Empty Orchestra' emits, the breathtakingly spacious 'There Goes The Sun'...yet, immersion is absolutely demanded of the listener in order to draw out this work's greatest rewards. It's sort of like a night spent camping deep in the woods; the campire s'mores will satisfy your immediate cravings, but what you'll remember in the end is how you felt when you stayed up all night, stared into the constellations overhead, and felt your own presence within the universe, within nature. The Great Awakening
is not a sonic one, but if you give it the attention that it deserves, then it just might become a personal one.
This is an album that slithers and slinks more than it struts. It fades to and fro, blurs the edges, and disorients. It's uncompromising in this approach, which could deter some listeners who are eager for quicker gratification than what Shearwater is willing to give, but that's also why The Great Awakening
feels entirely genuine. It's a dark, gorgeous, twisted, spine-tingling experience that is able to pull off such a decelerated pace because it owns that pace entirely, injecting it with haunting rhythms and naturalistic beauty. It was undoubtedly a risk, but The Great Awakening
feels like stumbling upon a well-kept secret.