31 (noisy) songs
04 May 2012
Studio Hufvudstaden, Sweden
Black Star Foundation
Mattias Bhatt, guitar
Martin Hjertstedt, drums
Gustav Almberg, guitar
Kristian Karlsson, bass/vocals
Subtitle: going steady with a band.
When a band releases more than one good albums, that’s it, I’m sold*. I become a fan**, searching obsessively on the internet for announcements of live dates, forcing youtube videos on friends, anticipating new stuff etc. I like these clingy relationships with my favourite artists.
pg.lost released this a few months after I had literally melted In never out [’09] into my brain. That one used a template: one or two strong themes for each track that the band got the most out of. Deeply disquieting “quiet” parts followed by the most epic treatment possible, gradually increasing the energy level until we feel we are flying or dying or something. It sounds simple, but the band is so talented that we can listen to the same chord progression over and over for 5 minutes and still follow every single second of it. Good fucking music, that’s what I’m saying.
I didn’t expect much from the new one. I thought that this band’s post-rock had been exhausted for me: either there wouldn’t be enough evolution to find a reason to start listening to it, or the band would dissolve into something polished and blunt. Wrong and wrong.
First of all pg.lost have abandoned the template for Key. Each piece has a different character, and almost all are non-cyclical. I mean, the structure is not any more one or two chord progressions, arranged into quiet-strong-ultra epic trips. Each track is very complex and has another story to tell. The feelings Key evokes cover a wide range: hope and desperation, fear and courage, anger and pain. Also, the instrumentation and arrangements are more complex. The sounds vary quite a lot, which is an indication of how much the members have improved in mastering their instruments. What’s more, they have used that into the process of composing their music, which has more melody and more intricacy than their previous effort.
I wanted to speak about track number five, but I think I need the preceding one to ease me into that. Sheaves starts off with a war-like, epic metal kind of riff, that gets the anxiety attack going for us (the listeners). Later it passes through quieter places, where the band “explains” what’s wrong more eloquently, using all shorts of clean guitars, gradually adding up tension. One minute before the end, the first riff re-emerges, crushing us again. We are left inside the in-between silence exhausted, restless and totally hooked.
I am destroyer begins. We hear droning guitar sounds and a keyboard. The ominous ambiance is enriched with a marching snare drum. A clean echoing guitar offers the main theme and seems to speak about a Something That Went Terribly Bad. Clouds are gathering, a storm is coming…
Two minutes later, the track erupts in its full spectrum, with an explosion reminiscent of big bang representations on documentaries. The music keeps telling the same story, but every instrument is expanding into epic proportions, making us realize the true extend of the Thing That Went Terribly Bad. Things get ultra distorted and the atmosphere becomes too thick to breath. The guitar keeps wailing along the same melodic line. The drums are batter-ramming into each metre. It feels like we are flying above a destroyed, smoky battle field.
Mid-song the piece goes into respite. A melancholic chant is hummed with a fragile voice driven through the magnet of a guitar (at least that’s how it sounds like to me). The human sound of the singer’s inhaling is enough to return some warmth into our hearts, after all the violence that preceded, but the sadness in his/her voice can also brake us into tears. Somebody is lamenting for Something Beautiful (that was tragically taken for granted) that is now lost.
In the same part, a bit later, the music starts gathering momentum, without using much aggression, just by building up tension with the restless drums and slightly distorted bass. The narration of the guitar is beautiful, although I couldn’t tell what it is about. Depends on the day you’re having and on your subconscious, I suppose…
The finale comes, using the rhythm and power of the main theme, but without any melody this time. Just one chord is hammering over and over. Chilling shrieks and deep droning bass. Feedback and crushing cymbals. The Beautiful Thing is now gone and in its place are just the anger and frustration and a scorched landscape, slowly fading into silence.
I don’t know about your subconscious, but pg.lost is obviously talking about our little crisis here.
*let me clarify; the element “album” is contained in the set of “good albums” if and only if the album contains more than one good song out of every two; debatable logic, I agree, but I generally think like that …
**the element “listener” is contained in the set of “fans” when … (you get it now)