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Honorary Collaborator / Band Submissions
4 stars GRAILS remain true to their principles - they deliver something difficult to pigeonhole again. Usually I try to reference to some other bands in style or mood sooner or later - this is surely difficult to indicate this time. So you can say they are really acting in their own league. Contradictions rule the world ... and 'Deep Politics' too ... multi-faceted, besides their traditional psych, kraut and post rock basics many cinematic, eclectic and even some popular impressions play a role. Finally I know ... and this counts ... I'm listening to something rounded anyhow.

With Future Primitive the crew offers an extraordinary kick-off - this is of a trippy, spacey ambience with melancholic mellotron in the back. Well, dark mooded.a bit ... suddenly acoustic guitar and violin serve a folksy touch in between and then a stomping repetitive groove backs playful guitars over the course of the following minutes. An excellent composition and implementation this is - it grows the more I listen. The following All The Colors Of The Dark forwards the listener to the album's cinematic scope while being suitable for a western movie soundtrack ... the cool saloon piano transmutes me ultimately - just have to close my eyes and imagine the turning into a cowboy who is crossing the prairie on his bronco. Eh, as for me it works - each time I listen!

On Corridors of Power the lonely hunter has arrived at the Sioux camp while smoking a peace pipe at the wigwam - this is decorated with vintage ethno/world moments ... and a simple electronic beat in contrast. By all means a controversial song. Speaking of contradictions - the title track proves this too - piano and lush strings serve a sugar-sweet popular vibe - superficially though ... because they also integrate a challenging interlude with fuzzy guitar on the other hand - surprise, surprise! Now switch off your environment for a while and totally concentrate on the album's core, the last three tracks.

Almost Grew My Hair opens the door to the eclectic fields with sophistication and beauty - a piece of work impossible to describe. The main melody comes close to native American chanting somewhere in between. The song lives from the interaction of acoustic and plaintive electric guitars eminently. The tension-filled I Led Three Lives folllows these paths while turning back to a more cosmic, partially hallucinatory atmosphere. Deep Snow finally lulls with several melodic portions ... nearly ... but decorated with some contrast coming from an eruptive interlude this is anything but simplistic.

Overall they implement a relaxed downtempo mood on 'Deep Politics' - although outfitted with an awesome range of impressions. Which means this does not bore in any way. The guitars deal with the complete emotional bandwith from depressive to enthusiastic. Thus here we have something entertaining really - their most innovative stuff I came across so far. Compositional skills meet somnambulistic interaction when it comes to the instruments. Hard to imagine how they will transfer this potential to the stage. Come what may ... I recommend to assimilate the band's approach, it's worth it.

Report this review (#412515)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2011 | Review Permalink
Heavy Prog & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars This is an album that starts off pretty well but then becomes a little monotonous--like listening to a movie soundtrack without the movie; as is so often the case, the music lacks its punch without the photography (as the film would suffer without its soundtrack).

1."Future Primitive" has a wonderfully ominous start, followed by the driving rhythm of some guitars before the MIddle Eastern instruments, sounds and melodies take over.

2. "All the Colours of the Dark" has a very strong symphonic/Genesis feel to it until it decays into an all-too-familiar spaghetti-western New Age classical guitar melody.

3. "Corridors of Power" sounds straight out of a GORDON Brothers New Age/Buddha Lounge CD. Hello, is that supposed to be Carlos NAKAI or Robert MIRABEL in there with ROBERT FRIPP?

4. "Deep Politics" is a pretty cool moody piece--one that could be from an ULVER or MY EDUCATION album (i.e. in a film score like TANGERINE DREAM's awesome 1981 soundtrack to Thief). Simple piano melody lays backdrop to a bunch of instrumental noises which, oddly, are mixed far into the background of the music, until the 1:30 mark when a very hokey drum cadence shifts the song into another gear--which sustains this hokeyness.

5. "Daughters of Bilitis" is another pretty, moody soundtrack piece to some city streets night scene. Again, really too contrived, derivative of others' sounds and melody lines.

6. "Almost Grew My Hair" has troulbe pulling itself together and then never seems to rise above anything but very cheap New Age music--like GOVI or . And, sorry for this, but the cheezy drumming is outright laughable. So cliché!

7. "I Led Three Lives" sounds like another reject left out of the Thief soundtrack. The varying tempo of the single-note bass line is almost laughable.

8."Deep Snow" is a little WILLIAM ACKERMAN dittie--or the alternate love theme to Brokeback Mountain.

Overall, a nice collection of music that, IMO, would be best accompanying mostly transitional or credit-rolling scenes in films. On their own the songs included here are not quite strong enough to stand on their own and are sometimes outright embarrassing. I have trouble giving this album three stars, cuz it's really a 2.5, but a few of the songs are good; none are great.

Report this review (#419315)
Posted Monday, March 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Grails has an extremely unique sound. Completely instrumental, it's a mix of space rock, psychedelic rock, post-rock, folk, and a hodgepodge of other influences. That sound loans itself to the latest release from the band, Deep Politics. It's been three years since their last two albums and four since the epic Burning Off Impurities (In this time, however, the excellent Black Tar Prophecies Vol. IV has been released...) I have only heard some of their last two efforts and they don't compare to this or BOI that much. The sound on this album is very different from Burning Off Impurities, but it still resembles a Grails album.

The beginning really shows off the spacey side of Grails. "Future Primitive" features airy synths and lazing guitars, both acoustic and electric. There are some interesting string sounds on here (do not know if they're synthesized or not). It has a latent Arabic feeling to it, especially in the violin sounds. The band doesn't skip a beat in the introduction to this album. 5/5

"All the Colors of the Dark" has some freaky piano beats. This song sounds like spelunking into the schizophrenic psyche. Dark and brooding sounds dominate the track. Grails manages to keep the momentum of the previous song going. 5/5

"Corridors of Power" plays with a synth and flute melody to a drum track, with some subtle percussion. Partway through the track, it gets a slight vocal-y track. It's a pretty good song, but not a standout on the album. 3/5

The title track "Deep Politics" fools around with a meaningful piano track and some mellow strings. The guitar sounds distant, as if it is calling for you but you can't move. Things suddenly become more real when the drums enter. The ending of the track is frantic and explosive. 5/5

"Daughters of Bilitis" is another psychotic-reminiscent song. The constant drumbeat and electric piano is undermined by angry guitar and strings. It's a very creative track, but not as good as most of the others. 4/5

"Almost Grew My Hair" is one of those songs we listen for. Without songs like this, there would be no point in looking for music. The intro is played on twin acoustic-electric guitars, and some choir synths. This song is like an amazing mix of Burning Off Impurities Grails with some slight Symphonic Prog influences. Grails has returned to making driving songs. That is essentially the best thing to describe Grails as, music to drive your car to. And the places you will go to this kind of music. The sound is so full on this song. Halfway through the track there's a great segue to a section that is brooding like the rest of the album but keeps that driving feel. This song is as close to perfection as you can get. 5/5

Oh, no, they had an awesome track, now the rest is going to be horrible! No, this is not your standard band, this is Grails. The next track, "I Led Three Lives", is not driving music like the last one, but is still a definite high point in the album. Again, the sound is very full. The instruments gradually build to a great crescendo. My god, what a crescendo it is. They should rename it a Grailschendo. It gives the feeling of being in some giant city in the future, kind of like a Samurai Jack-type story. This band really knows how to paint a picture. 5/5

We've come to the end. This fantastic journey has brought us here, to "Deep Snow". It starts off very well, with a quiet acoustic guitar piece. This little infant of music comes out of its egg, though, and gets some major energy. The picture you get when listening to this song is that of lying out in the stars at night and watching the moon drift across the sky, when, suddenly, you start to fly off and into the depths of space. 5/5

This is one of Grails' best efforts to date and will be pretty hard to beat for album of the year. It just goes to show what a little break from the studio can do. I highly recommend this album to anyone and everyone. Just listen with an open mind and consider the imagery the song is trying to convey. I guarantee you'll come back to it. Try listening to it in the car, though. It will make even the most mediocre ride better.

Report this review (#423340)
Posted Saturday, March 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 7/10

"Deep Politics" is one of the very best Post-Rock albums of the year.

2011 is an interesting year for post-rock: it seems like the bands of this genre have decided to go a little crazy this year and put a huge amount of influences, to the point where you can barely tell id it's post-rock or not. OK, I haven't head the new Mogwai or the new Explosions In The Sky, but I did hear the new Long Distance Calling, which was influenced a lot by metal and some electronic. "Deep Politics" is completely different. In a good way.

I'm getting to the point where I consider this album more like Space rock; there are very few post-rock elements, which was something I got really surprised for. The music, yes, is a little spacey thanks to the pretty massive use of keyboards and mellotron. We got some very dark sounding strings and cellos here and there, some accompanied by the keyboards, some samples, some strange sounding flutes, some piano, some very tense electric guitar, that always keeps you gripped on the edge of your seat, thinking that it might explode into an intense and fierce part of the song , but it never does. Some influences of ethnic music, such as Indian or Arabic, as well as cinematic and Morricone like moods. Also, acoustic guitars can be present. So "Deep Politics" sounds a lot like a kaleidoscope of sounds, and all the tracks differ a lot from each other. "Deep Politics" is an instrumental album, but the music is so rich and beautiful that vocals would just ruin it.

Many of these songs are absolutely memorable: the beginner, "Future Primitive", is one of the most spacey ones, and most definitely one of the best of the album, thanks to the effective and evocative ambience that perfectly goes with the more melodic part of the song. A more tense and creepy song is the second track, "All The Colors Of The Dark", due to its pointy sounding piano. But the chorus is more lively and epic sounding, and it really changes the atmosphere from there on. Other great songs are "Almost Grew My Hair", "I Led Three Lives", and the final track "Deep Snow", all of them have beautiful and unique sounding moments. Of course there are some moments of this album that could have been easily fixable, like the title track or the eerie "Corridors Of Power".

I wasn't exactly in love with the album overall, but I really had a good time listening to it, and definitely It gets to be my number 1 post-rock album of the year.

Report this review (#445238)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Deep Politics' - Grails (8/10)

Is ambient music still considered as such, when it is backed up by strong and tightly woven songwriting? Meet the band Grails, a band that has been called everything from psychedelic to post-rock. Although certainly close to many other bands in terms of sound, Grails' 2011 bout into the music scene does set them apart as an intriguing act in atmospheric rock. Scooping up some acclaim across the board for the latest album 'Deep Politics', Grails create an instrumental journey that stays interesting and engaging throughout. In doing so, the band has created a likely candidate for the soundtrack of some non-existent film.

Each track here has a very spacey, atmospheric feeling to it. Whether it's the dense arrangements and orchestrations between string sections, guitars, and electronics, or the clever use of psychedelic effects, Grails sounds quite often like complex ambient music. When it comes to melody, there is substance here, but its usually not so straightforward as much music might tend to allow. Instead, 'Deep Politics' seems to be an album that aims to give the most relaxing experience it can, taking its time to get where its going. The fact that this is an instrumental album also allows it to work perfectly as background music, although the intent and engaged listener can choose to have just as pleasant an experience with it as he would otherwise.

Although things are very atmospheric, there is also a strong sense of songwriting. Each song maintains a level of good direction to it; no matter how spacey the ordeal gets, there is never a shortage of the feeling that the music is going somewhere. Of course, these songs (which have stylistic influences ranging from Indian raga music to chilled jazz) have a lacking in excitement that would commonly associate them with this sort of music, the instrumentation is played surprisingly well, with the eastern-tinged violin sections sticking out particularly well.

Grails opens up 2011 with a very strong note, and although I'm not the most experienced listener of ambient-leaning music, 'Deep Politics' does enough to both soothe me, and hold my attention.

Report this review (#448402)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Grails are a group who have been referred to as Post-Rock but are listed here on PA under Psyche/Space. On this album, the only one of theirs I have heard, I can hear both styles along with a very soundtrack-like, cinematic atmosphere. I like the diversity of instruments and sounds on this mostly instrumental album. Synths are used almost exclusively for background atmosphere, never being a lead instrument. Lots of various guitar tones are used and sometimes there are wordless vocals that don't stand out at all.

"Future Primitive" has a Middle-Eastern vibe to it. This song sounds to me like a cross between Radiohead and The Tea Party. "Corridors Of Power" has some talking. I like the mix of a trip-hop beat and 'Andean' pipes. The title track is one of the better songs on the album. Features some good piano work. Just love the electric piano sound in "Daughters Of Bilitis" but otherwise it's not one of my faves. The title of "Almost Grew My Hair" is a reference to the David Crosby song "Almost Cut My Hair." This song has some wordless vocals. Some great guitar work throughout this track. "I Led Three Lives" builds up to a nice groove around halfway. Gets riffy for a bit and then slowly mellows out and gets more ambient sounding. "Deep Snow" again reminds me of The Tea Party with it's Middle-Eastern styled melody. Later gets more post-rock sounding.

There is nothing extremely original here but at the same time the music does not sound derivitive or cliche at all. The sound and production is terrific for a new release; not over compressed leaving out all the dynamics of the music. This is one of those albums where you end up liking it the more you hear it. I have no idea what their earlier albums sound like, but after hearing Deep Politics I'm interested. Great modern music. 4 stars.

Report this review (#456737)
Posted Saturday, June 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Maybe it's the abundance of cloudy and rainy weather that these guys have lived with in Portland, Oregon that has caused them to create such a bleak and atmospheric albim. Ambient and dark with mellotron, strings and sparse piano often helping to create that melancholic mood.This reminds me of the atmospheric side of Experimental / Post-Metal a lot if only there were more Metal outbreaks. So yeah these guys blur the lines between Psychedelic / Space Rock, Post-Rock and Experimental / Post-Metal. Cinematic is a word thrown around a lot with regards to this album and I did think of ULVER's "Perdition City" while listening to this work a few times.

"Future Primitive" opens sounding like a slow moving mechanical beast. It starts to pick up before 2 minutes then it turns heavier at 3 minutes. "All The Colors Of The Dark" has these dark piano lines with drums before guitar and atmosphere joins in before a minute. It settles right down then picks back up as contrasts continue. "Corridors Of Power" features percussion and bass in a dark atmosphere.

"Deep Poiltics" opens with piano and kicks in and picks up after 2 minutes as strings and drums are added to the piano. It turns chaotic after 4 1/2 minutes then settles back. "Daughters Of Bilitis" has an interesting soundscape with percussion, piano, guitar and other sparse sounds. "Almost Grew My Hair" is a terrible title but then i've had longish hair since I was 19 (haha).The sound builds with vocal melodies and strummed guitar.The vocals stop as drums and other sounds join in. Some heavy outbursts after 5 minutes. It's building again before 7 minutes.

"I Led Three Lives" is my favourite. It's dark and atmospheric. We get a beat after a minute. Intricate guitar before 2 1/2 minutes. It's building. "Deep Snow" has this laid back intricate guitar to start then it gets fuller 1 1/2 minutes in. It then settles back with atmosphere as the intricate guitar continues. A calm after 3 1/2 minutes then it kicks in reminding me of THE TEA PARTY. It settles again with intricate sounds and atmosphere.

A solid 4 star album that pushes most of the right buttons for me.

Report this review (#457685)
Posted Monday, June 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Extremely Satisfying Head Music

DEEP POLITICS is the first album from Grails I have purchased, and it has turned out to be one of my most-spun records of the year. Unlike many albums that require a very specific mood to work, DEEP POLITICS combines enough hypnotic atmosphere to function as background music but also has enough activity and detail to be listened to with close attention. The overall sound is instrumental, dark, psychedelic, and employs occasional ethnic influences. There are ebbs and flows of emotion and intensity, but never jarringly so. The mood remains in a contemplative arena, despite the music actually moving from glimpses of Camel guitar slow jam to Native American styled flute work to gentle piano interludes.

In a genre where obvious rips from Pink Floyd or Gong intrude all too frequently, Grails manages to dig a little deeper and carve their own niche. The overall sound reminds me more of a modern Krautrock than Eloy or Nektar. None of the individual sounds will surprise you, but the collection both within and across songs makes for a very effective listening experience. Much of the record is quite mellow, though I never find my attention wandering. Most of the instrumental (piano and guitar usually taking the lead role) work is quite understated. Everything serves the overall mood, and that mood is a rich indigo evening with a slight drizzle. (The album cover is a little too bleak for the music, IMO).

Most of the psych-rock I've tried seems shallow or derivative. Grails avoids this and has made a great piece of mood music that continues to push my speakers while other favorites move into the background. Firmly recommend.

Report this review (#477551)
Posted Wednesday, July 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars 'Deep Politics' is the first and - so far - one of the few 2011 albums that gave me that glorious feeling that all is still rather well with the world and that good music will prevail for ever.

Admitted, I've been hooked by this band ever since I heard the dark, gothic and experimental post-rock soundscapes of 'Black Tar Prophecies'. The band hasn't changed their approach all that much over the years, but recent albums had shown a growing interest in composing memorable hooks and 'catchy' song-material, an effort that greatly pays off here on this epic cinematic album. The music can really stand on its own here, and there's only a couple of quieter tracks where some accompanying footage might improve the experience.

So what we get is the known 'soundtrack' style approach of the band, applying the "slow-is-beautiful" ethic when they build up the tension and set the scene for gloriously big, as well as desolate landscapes, for touching romantic scenes and looming drama. Really, I can't wait to see the movie when hearing this album. The spirit of Ennio Morricone is present in many of the compositions, as well as the gift of Pink Floyd to create that full yet open sound, where every instrument freely breathes and resonates.

'Deep Politics' is Grail's most diverse and successful album so far and a perfect introduction to the band. Fans of post-rock and space-rock shouldn't hesitate, but anyone is invited really, the fact that this is the 7th 4star review in a row sure indicates its broad potential.

Report this review (#507597)
Posted Tuesday, August 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A rather strange album from a band who has a lot to say.

I am not that used to this kind of music. Music I associate with the likes of Blow Up Hollywood and the new generation of US prog rock bands. Bands whose philosophy is "less is more". Which is exactly what you get on this album. Less is more here. We are not talking cascades of keyboards, bass and guitars. Neither cascades with woodwinds and violins/cellos either. Instead, Grails gives us an album where each instrument and each melody line get the chance to breathe properly. So much than we can feel each heartbeat from the instruments used here. Less is more...... but the result is still a big, dense sound.

The tempo is rather slow and ambient. The songs, all instrumentals, are not immediate accessible. But they creeps up on you and stays there. For me, that is one of the hallmarks of a great album. An album that leaves a mark on the listener. An album not easily forgotten. Yes, I would wish there was some truly excellent songs here. But this is still a great album and one to cherish.

4 stars

Report this review (#541188)
Posted Tuesday, October 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The very first time I heard this album, I remained disengaged. However, as a believer in second chances, I revisited the album a few weeks later and enjoyed my stay. With each hearing, my appreciation for the various textures and progressions of the compositions themselves deepened. The music is breathy and rarely choked by excess. The psychedelic veneer only covers the more symphonic and post-rock elements, with what I hear to be a nod to Mike Oldfield. All in all, I find it to be an admirable album, perfect for a rainy morning like this one.

"Future Primitive" The album starts promisingly, with a low, grungy backing and Middle Eastern influences. I adore the riff midway through- it's original and allows the light-headed lead instruments ample opportunity to complement the piece.

"All The Colors Of The Dark" Groovy, jazzy piano and an eventual choral Mellotron provide the essential psychedelic textures to make this eventually melodic track work. The track assumes a soothingly victorious essence.

"Corridors Of Power" Adopting various Asian visages, including Japanese flute and Indian rhythms, Grails does a pleasing job of fusing the sounds of different cultures into a quiet, meditative piece.

"Deep Politics" Gorgeous piano prances through a dark atmosphere, making a composition that is at once somnolent and exciting, as though knowing there are monsters in the closet and under the bed and sleeping anyway because one must be fresh for work the next day, yes? When the drums enter, the piece maintains an eerie, antiquated sense of beauty- dream time now.

"Daughters Of Bilitis" Referencing a French coming-of-age film, the fifth track involves brooding chords with graceful drizzles of strings and piano.

"Almost Grew My Hair" Galloping acoustic guitar and dark electric guitar march through this piece, with the former (a twelve-string) maintaining control of the spotlight. The descending bass riff is quite similar to the aforementioned riff in the first track. The last passage builds on growling and shrieking electric guitar.

"I Led Three Lives" For me, "I Led Three Lives" is the downer of the album. Moody atmospheric pads meander here and there, and though the piece climbs into heavy progressive rock territory midway through, by that point, my attention begins to wander- just yawn-inducing and tedious.

"Deep Snow" Redeeming the album after the penultimate disaster, the final piece offers reflective acoustic guitar that builds to a melodic and stunning climax. The second half is raucous and Mediterranean in character, and it contains a passage that is vaguely familiar to me. This is a satisfying conclusion to a remarkable musical expedition that may require patience.

Report this review (#548284)
Posted Tuesday, October 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars On Deep Politics, Grails give us a spacey, at points even trippy journey through the margins of post-rock territory. The crew certainly show an adept command of a wide range of musical styles, incorporating Middle Eastern musical motifs into their music in the opening Future Primitive, opening the title track with a little piano-based minimalism, and so on, and indeed at points I found myself concerned that their tendency to meander around trying a range of different styles out would get the better of them.

At the end, I found Deep Politics to be a reasonably satisfying album for background listening but didn't offer up much in the way of a cohesive artistic vision - it's sufficiently diverse that you could probably con someone into thinking it's a compilation of the work of multiple different post-rock bands rather than a single unit, and whilst that speaks well to Grails' musical versatiity it doesn't quite make me want to come back to the album for regular repeated listens.

Report this review (#897823)
Posted Wednesday, January 23, 2013 | Review Permalink

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