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Grails - Take Refuge in Clean Living CD (album) cover



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5 stars We've all heard some variation of the joke about how great bands strung out on heroin suck after they detox. If the succession of titles in Grails' last 3 releases is an indication of the band's lifestyle then Take Refuge in Clean Living disproves that theory. The Black Tar Prophecies was an obvious reference to black tar heroin. Burning Off Impurities is almost certainly a reference to the process off refining the same or a similar drug. Take Refuge in Clean Living seems to indicate a change of behaviour. Although Take Refuge isn't quite as good Prophecies, it is better than Impurities. Just like those previous releases, Take Refuge offers a variety of moods and sounds served up with great virtuosity. Once again Grails has proven that they are one of the most talented bands around. Though far from derivative, Grails' influences are a little more apparent on this release. The presence of Pink Floyd is especially palpable. Fans of Pink Floyd, The Future Kings of England, Popol Vuh, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Porcupine Tree, Steve Hackett, and Six Organs of Admittance etc take notice.
Report this review (#182698)
Posted Wednesday, September 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Grails is a spacey instrumental rock band four piece from the US, they have been writing music for quite a while, but only made it big in the post rock world when they released 2007's Burning off impurities. Since then the band has been thrown into underground stardom, and has been pumping out music like crazy. Well I don't have burning off impurities, much less anything else they've ever made behind this one, and their most recent album Doomsdayers Holiday. Both albums are fine releases, and are both a little different...

This album take refuge in clean living is much more laid back, and is incredibly rooted in eastern music, with sitars, Indian song structures, and an almost annoying use of the harmonic scale. All of this is very Beatles-esque, as if they were trying to describe a really really chilled acid trip. While Doomsdayers holiday is much heavier, the songs are a little less consistent than on Take Refuge In Clean Living. This one flows nicely from song to song, and is incredibly relaxing, one of my recent favorites to sleep to considering the lack of climaxes, and how the tension never really builds, You just let the eastern vibes take you away, that is until you get to the title track. The song take refuge is sadly one of the only notable songs on the album, one you can really get your toe tapping to, one that really gets the juices pumping. The lead guitar player just plays this easy simple riff, and then the second guitar player plays something over that, and then the excellent drummer starts doing entire measure long fills (Note the complete restriction of riding on anything but the hi hat, excellent self control), really this song does actually remind me of how prog rock used to make me feel back in the day.

A very solid album, but there really is either a big lack of energy, or a big lack of creativity that's keeping me from bragging about this band too much. True I don't have their other albums, so I'm sending you a completely unbiased review of a band who seem to have already released an incredible album, and maybe this one is just a more chilled out follow up to it. Whatever it is, it's a good album, but nothing to shake a stick at. 3 stars.

Report this review (#183357)
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Band Submissions
4 stars Short but great anyway! My first relationship to the band. This album has a psychedelic flow provided with a quite intense melancholic touch - exciting when you're interested in floating cosmic, ambient, exotic sounds. Because they started with a clear post rock orientation GRAILS continue to be filed under this category today - but this album does not confirm that correlation. The stylistical bandwith is expanded in the meanwhile. THE FUTURE KINGS OF ENGLAND or SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE are coming into my mind when listening.

We have a quite celestial start with the opener Stoned At The Taj Again - the song title speaks for itself. GRAILS are providing a magical atmosphere at a glance - a song which could be also filed under krautrock. A collaboration of oriental and dark impressions - mysteriously arranged based on some speed variations. Seamlessly associated PTSD takes over this mood - but this evolves not so gloomy furthermore - rather spacey. You will also detect harpsichord impressions, piano interludes, sampled orchestral strings, slight drones and other goodies afterwards.

The Eastern/South European trance folk flavoured Take Refuge should be mentioned especially - played with a lot of variations by bouzouki, trumpet, church organ but also provided with some heavier moments with references to the origin. Sadly faded out - not really understandable considering the album's modest length of 32 minutes. Anyhow, 'Take Refuge In Clean Living' is a close-packed collection of impressions embrassing several styles and requires your full concentration.

Report this review (#217456)
Posted Friday, May 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars After the excellent BOI album, one of the most adventurous post rock album ever,, Grails came back with their fourth album, that goes way more than "one step further". Indeed, with this album, they don't just stretch the boundaries, they just trash them away. If there is still a post- rock base, Clean Living is also a psychedelic album and even more a Krautrock album by its Ash Ra Temple and Popol Vuh's respective Eastern Asia influences and some slight Nektar influences as well. The artwork is really fascinating , especially on the inside illustrations (and fairly close to BOI's artwork), the line-up remaining stable after losing their violin player before BOI's recording.

Only five tracks on this album, the longest running at 8 minutes, for a total just over the half- hour, it's quite a contrast to GYBE's second release, a one-track EP lasting some 28 mins. Yup this is short, especially compared to their prior excellent BOI release, and this one being even better, you get a sense of frustration and a feel of "a little too few" to quench the thirst and hunger. Plenty of moody music, still being of to the post rock doctrine, but plenty of instrumental psych evasion

If you're a post rock nutcase, I suggest that it would be a shame to deprive you of the slow unravelling of Grails' pure post rock caterpillar into a psychedelic Kraut butterfly. A long crescendo lasting four albums. However, if you're a little tired of the post rock clichés and their wanting to become the next GYBE! because they all sound grosso modo the same, than plunge directly BOI or TRICL to get something quite different, yet still very much post-rock.

Report this review (#223201)
Posted Friday, June 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Grails' fifth album if you include "Black Tar Prophecies". It's a very short album, barely longer then half an hour, so I might have liked it more if it was priced as an EP rather then a regular CD, but anyway, not a minute is wasted, which is quite a relief in the post-rock field.

"Stoned At Your Feet" kicks off with a dirty swamp blues lick, after 2 minutes it quiets down for a slowly building crescendo with gorgeous psychedelic guitars, both acoustic and electric. As can be expected it erupts into an orgy of sound, big and spacious but also controlled. "PSTD" is a more droning affair, with looped guitar arpeggios and ambient sound effects. "11th Hour" takes the form of a ballad, very bluesy and cinematic.

"Take Refuge" is a miniature masterpiece, it adds more melody to their typical rising and ebbing song structure, with an atmosphere that strongly reminds me of Ennio Morricone's "Harmonica Man". Epic! "Clean Living" is more subdued with a slow and moody piano melody, struggling to rise above the echoing reverb that this Grails album resounds with.

Great album again from Grails. Could have been a bit longer though, if you're looking for a reason to complain.

Report this review (#424812)
Posted Wednesday, March 30, 2011 | Review Permalink

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