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PLAINS OF THE PURPLE BUFFALO

shels

Experimental/Post Metal


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EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 8/10

"Plains Of Purple Buffalo" brings Post-Rock to places where it's never been: one of the finest releases of the year.

Post-Metal is not a rarity these days, many bands out there are imitating much of the old school, Post-Rock, or Sludge Metal. This is not exactly the case of this London act, *Shels, one of the most unique sounding bands I've heard in a while. Their attitude towards this kind of music is haunting, dreamy, but especially very sincere, in almost a juvenile sort of way, while at the same time, it becomes one of the most earthly and visceral experiences you'll ever have. "Plains Of Purple Buffalo", the sophomore LP, perfectly represents the enigmatic dichotomy.

This relatively obscure gem redefines for one hour and twenty minutes Post-Rock, but you can tell that this little revolution, sadly, will remain within the boundaries of the album and will most likely never influence much music in the future, due to it's overlooked nature. The music is extremely haunting, whether it is calm or violent: it also goes for an extreme choice volume-wise, as there is minimalism in the mellower parts and visceral, pounding distortion in the heavy moments. The band loves to experiment with new sounds and ideas on every song, meaning there's a great variety of instrumentation with also a different song structure ever time. Some of the most noticeable sounds, besides strange synth noises or guitar effects, are the saxophone, which appears in most of the songs here, some strings, but especially the vocals: these are the most precious and unique addition to the sound, ironically enough; they are always lost in the mix, put at a lower volume than the guitars, so that the lyrics are inaudible. However, this feature strengthens the idea that *Shels wanted to give with this album: they wanted you to feel overwhelmed by sound, and at the same time, cry in joy for it. The violent parts truly resemble being hit by a pack of buffalos that is running only for the sake of doing so. The vocals, like the listener, are resembling someone who's trying to get some air from all that stomping, and the result is so beautiful, it almost makes violence the most gorgeous thing on the planet.

This obscure gem, like it was mentioned, brings Post-Rock/Post-Metal in a place where it's never been, and probably would never again return without *Shels. Entering into the world of "Plains Of Purple Buffalo" is like dreaming to hide in your closet in the dark, only to find in there your little, melancholic, desolate world, that belongs only to you. With this album I couldn't help recalling children's books where you enter fantastic, dreamy places, and you bring with you all of your innocence. But when violence overwhelms you, everything seems clear, and violence becomes part of your conception of beauty and joy. It might seem pessimistic, but in truth, it is the most positive and powerful album you'll hear this year, as it turns everything into a dream, a reverie.

As far as the highlights are concerned, well, the album has plenty: from the multi parted opening track, which gives a perfect introduction, "Journey To The Plains". This track is basically a summary of the album to come, all of the defining traits are found in these seven minutes. After that, the remaining hour is a much more developed, detailed, focused, but also stretched out version of the opening minutes: the two part title track is a very complete sounding piece of music, ranging from Ambient influences (almost exclusively in part 1) to Sludge Metal. "The Spirit Horse"' is probably the most memorable and moving songs here, with a brilliant intro and an absolutely wonderful main section, where I can't help thinking about Shoegaze. Same thing for the more cheerful "Butterflies On Luci's Way", with it's almost childish hook, or "Vision Quest", or the dreamiest atmosphere or all, "Conqueror".

These songs change shape, set a different mood every few minutes, and that is something I've always found magical in an album. A stunningly beautiful, complex, eclectic and finally complete piece of art, a little gem that should be recognized much more. No doubt one of the peak moments of the year, as well one of the best modern albums of Post-Rock.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#591289)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Eclectic Prog Team
4 stars This album alternates between bright vociferousness and halcyon drowsiness, just as the Earth experiences days and nights. It's as picturesque as a musical album could be.

'Journey to the Plains' The opening seconds create a vaguely lonely feeling right away, but when the band opens up, the music is as grand and spacious as the plains of the Midwest. The repetitive lead that serves as the pinnacle of the piece works beautifully over the basic chord progression.

'Plains of the Purple Buffalo (Part One)' Thin, distant guitar makes me think of rainfall pattering on a tin roof in the dark desert.

'Plains of the Purple Buffalo (Part Two)' In stark contrast to part one, part two comes in heavy and triumphant. The uplifting nature of the piece reaches a stunning climax midway through.

'Searching For Zihuatanejo' Although a quiet somnolence pervades the first half, the band's characteristic jubilance returns in the second. It's almost as poignant as Red violating his parole and reuniting with his friend Andy Dufrense.

'Vision Quest' This sounds like wandering around in the desert at night, searching for some hidden meaning, only to have the sunrise spill over the horizon, bathing the seeker in its radiance.

'Atoll' Here is a fleeting, angelic interlude.

'Butterflies (On Luci's Way)' This is initially different. Instead of sweeping melodic post rock or still peacefulness, the band offers a gentle acoustic song that quickly evolves into the former style.

'Сrown of Eagle Feathers' This short piece is more in line with generic post rock, only with a heavier wash of sound.

'Bastien's Angels' Incredibly quiet (at times nonexistent) and then explosive, this piece is not on par with some of the more majestic passages that the album has presented up to this point.

'Conqueror' Another quiet but impassioned song, this has an almost tribal, spiritual feel to it.

'The Spirit Horse' Barely audible, 'The Spirit Horse' eventually returns to the tribal-inspired post rock.

'Waking' Another inexplicably quiet piece, this one repeats the same passages.

'Leaving the Plains' Using a brass lead and with a calm, anthem-like demeanor, the final piece seems like a wondrous valediction.

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Send comments to Epignosis (BETA) | Report this review (#977863)
Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 | Review Permalink

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