Post rock is becoming one of the most boring styles. Everything has grown predictable, every crescendo digested, every string section used dramatically. Godspeed You Black Emperor will not get very far if they keep on using the same old routine techniques, turning their whole catalog into something bland, making me wonder what was so exciting in the first place (and it's a shame).
I think the best thing i could say to start this review is that Grails are an instrumental band. They're not post rock per se, even though there are a couple of rises here and there, they're more like a Dirty Three who wouldn't keep on writing the same songs. The line up is simple, two guitars, a piano, a violin and drums. There's a saxophone on one song too.
It sounds bare and deserted like the ruins on the cover (except a bit less old-fashioned, stone columns are so passé).
Well. The record starts very well with "Dargai" which happens to be a traditional song from somewhere in the world. Strangely enough it reminds me of a more bombastic version of Palace's "New Partner" (which happens to be a great song). "The Volunteer" relies on spiky guitars a saxophone and a very quick crescendo. Grail's music would be cinematic if it was a bit less intense, my mind keeps on coming back to it even when i'm doing concentration-eating chores like washing the dishes or trying to complete Super Mario World.
Redlight doesn't fit whichever box you're tempted to put it in. Sometimes it's a bit bombastic, sometimes it's more psychedelic, sometimes it sounds good and Russian like Nina Nastasia's invisible backing band, but mostly it sounds delicate and passionate and brilliant. My favourites: "High & Low" which sounds like it was inspired by old factories and steam machines. Steam used to be the last century's future. It's a beautiful track, really, never repeating itself, following classical direction, with an old piano standing there with it's old pianist, playing under the dust. The following track, "Reprieve" is good and warm like good jazz. You must know how it feels, every sound in its right place, everything comforting and pleasing, no matter how complex the piece really is.
The whole album is like that: unsettling yet deeply satisfying, a very good surprise and a perfect present for your grandfather's birthday.
/nov 15th 2004/