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Red Sparowes - At the Soundless Dawn CD (album) cover


Red Sparowes


Post Rock/Math rock

3.82 | 99 ratings

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3 stars This is the debut album of the band 'Red Sparowes', a post rock band formed with 2 members from Prog Metal band 'Isis', Jeff Caxide and Bryant Clifford Meyer, both guitarists. Besides them, there were 3 other members in the band that were involved in this album.

The band utilizes a lot of pedal steel guitar. The music is also all instrumental and makes it's statements through samples and field recordings, but also through the long titles of each track. The music is hard and heavy, a lot like the band 'Pelican', and is based on the formula of building on a musical foundation through the use of crescendo, the basis of a lot of post rock. The concept of this album is about how there have been 5 extinctions throughout the history of the Earth, all of which were the result of natural occurrences. This album deals with The Sixth Extinction, which we are all now a part of and which is entirely a result of mankind.

The overall sound of the music is heavy and metallic, mostly dark, with the pedal steel adding a unique tone of brightness to the otherwise darkness. The wall of sound technique is used, but isn't always prevalent, and this helps create a great use of dynamics. It has an expansive sound and can get quite loud at times, as would be expected from a band that takes it's leadership from two members from 'Isis'.

'Alone and Aware'' has a lot of dynamics, not in the use of slow buildup, but in sudden changes. This lends a lot of variety to the track. The pedal steel is used quite effectively in the first part of the track. Towards the last part, the sound almost abruptly ends leaving only the sound of birds, and then some atmospheric sounds and processed vocal samples come in.

'Buildings Begin to Stretch'' is based on a repetitive melody played at times by the guitar and others by the bass. I like the way background noise caused by guitars come in and then suddenly disappear, building up and tearing down that wall of sound. The music drops off suddenly to a single guitar, and the melody comes back in variations. Dynamics are used with layering to bring back the initial loudness later. There is a metallic tone that reminds one of GY!BE. This is an excellent track with a lot of emotion felt through the orchestration.

'The Soundless Dawn'' is the shortest track at just over 4 minutes. This one utilizes a repeating pattern and shimmering guitars, but doesn't deliver the punch of the previous 2 tracks. It's more accessible because of its length and lesser intensity. However, it just doesn't really go anywhere or make any statement. At least it is short.

'Mechanical Sounds'' by contrast, is a 9 minute track. It starts off quite minimally with low tones. Layers of dark guitar sounds are built on this. This becomes almost drone like and goes on for 3 minutes before it fades and is replaced by a single guitar playing a repeating pattern softly. Drums are added later, but things remain subdued until about 5 minutes, then things get louder. This track starts off interestingly enough, but pretty much just follows the basic post rock formula, so it doesn't really hold my interest for as long as it should considering it's length. The pedal steel does bring in some Pink Floyd atmosphere however, but not enough to save the track by the time it comes in.

By the time 'A Brief Moment of Clarity'' comes in, it is a big surprise because it is suddenly very positive and bright sounding. This is very effective because of it's placement on the album. The pedal steel is back, but is utilized much better here. The rhythm is more straightforward here, which is also a nice surprise considering the overall feeling of darkness that has come before. Layers build, making things louder, but it still doesn't drown out the joyfulness of the track. This is a perfect example of how the music and the title of the track are spot on. By the time you get to the 4 minute mark though, there is a sudden drop off and a spoken vocal is heard in the distance, and darkness returns with a drone-ish sound from a guitar. This is a very effective track and it shows the creativity of the band.

'Our Happiest Days Begin to Turn'' again fits the 'narrative' of the title with another track that starts off with that positive feeling, but the beat is more hesitant here. Suddenly, discord starts to come into the picture, slowly. The happy feel of the track doesn't want to let go, but after a while, the track gets darker. This is instrumental storytelling at its best. By the end, we have returned to dangerous times and this is expressed by loudness, repetitive power chords and dissonance.

'The Sixth Extinction Crept Up Slowly'' is a 19 minute behemoth of a track. It starts immediately on a building crescendo that suddenly turns pensive at 2 minutes. It settles into this feeling as drums are added. It's not until 7 minutes in before the intensity increases and builds. This repeating strumming pattern has been going on all along, and continues through the build. A sudden apex is reached at 9 minutes, but it's still based on that same strumming pattern. It almost reaches screeching levels at 11 minutes. You will hear keyboards suddenly take over and break everything down. And then '..silence'. until 16 minutes. A drone that increases and then diminishes in volume carries the listener to the end. This track is too repetitive, and follows the typical formula too closely for way too long. That repetitive strumming pattern is just too much.

So, there are some very impressive tracks and passages here, but there is a lot of formulaic and predictable sections. The way the band tells the story through instruments only is quite amazing. There are some very well done and effective dynamics and some great surprises, but there are also moments of predictability that go on too long. There are times when the album easily reaches 5 star level, but other times when things drag on too long. It is tough to decide where to rate this one, but I'm going to have to go with a 3 here. There are so many places where the band rises above the post rock crowd, but it only makes it more disappointing when they resort to the worn out formula when they don't expand on it enough. Still, it's good enough to merit repeated listens, but probably with the help of a 'FF>>' button.

TCat | 3/5 |


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