Last year’s ‘Blood Demands More Blood’ was dark. Mark Beazley, aka Rothko described it as and ‘avalanche of brutality’ and ‘the sound of devastation and communal and historical political rage and loss’. ‘Refuge for Abandoned Souls’ is pitched as its predecessor’s counterpart, ‘stripped back, elegiac, but brushed with barbed wire.’
With the election campaign just starting up in the how long to be U-K, and shit doing down daily on the other side of the now stagnant cesspit that was previously the pond, the intensity of feeling around political matters is rising exponentially and instantaneously right now. On this premise, ‘Refuge for Abandoned Souls’ feels out of step with the zeitgeist, at least on paper. Stepping things down a few notches just as the world ratchets up to near-explosive fever-pitch seems counter-intuitive, right?
Actually, no. It’s only possible to sustain a crescendo for so long, only possible to run on adrenaline for a finite time Something has to give. The levee has to break. After the storm, the calm. Even during the storm, a lower ebb before the next surge. Everything comes in waves, and between waves, backwash.
The compositional stylings are overtly post-rock at first, with ‘Place Your Soul Next to Mine’, forged around gentle guitar and piano and draped with subtle strings, and the space between the notes as integral to the experience as the notes themselves. ‘The Last Bells Will Sound Forever’ swiftly plunges into dark ethereality. Amidst the notes which hang in a rich, heavy sea of echo, fuzzy edges shape elongated drones and spurs of static sculpt the forms.
‘The Day Before the Day After Your Death’ and ‘The Day After Your Death’ for a diptych, with chimes and tranquil space bleeding into a crumbling wall of distortion and decay, and a droning guitarscape that calls to mind the expansive sonic territory of Earth. It doesn’t ‘do’ much and doesn’t need to: its purpose is to create a certain sonic space, and this achieves that cerebral stillness through abstraction.
There’s an organic, biological feel to this album that extends beyond titles like ‘Your Heart Used to Beat, Now It Beats Stronger’ and ‘The Last Breath Becomes the First Breath’, which create a certain reflexive paradoxicality: the soft, writhing layers feel like the mechanics of the respiring body.
‘Reguse for Abandoned Souls’ is an album of echoes, of sparse arrangements, of surprisingly limited layering and trickery. The guitars sounds like guitars, and while electronic atmospherics eddy slow and deep, this is an albums that resonates on a real, human level. And delicate, mellow, and accessible as it is, ‘Reguse for Abandoned Souls’ is still challenging and uneasy at times and far from an empty vessel of vacuous melody.