An Autumn for Crippled Children // Only the Ocean Knows
Rating: 4.0/5.0 — An autumnal stroll
Label: Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum
Websites: myspace.com/crippledchildren2009 | facebook.com
Release Dates: EU: 2012.09.03 | NA: No date (09/28/2012?)
If you live in the northern hemisphere and you want melancholy, look no further than autumn: any autumn will do. One of the reasons is probably that, especially in the underground, an album coming out at the end of September is usually recorded in the summer, when a dark, miserable, neglected soul is exiled and out of their comfort zone. Now, as yet another summer exhausts its lifeblood, leaving crumbs of its beauty on its path to a ritual decay, September looms with a sardonic smile. Camus saw it as a second spring; An Autumn for Crippled Children sees it as an opportunity; an opportunity to mollify our mercurial disposition, to help us bury our memories under a thick fog of coffee and routine, and to prepare us to the sweet violence of our ravaging winter.
Only the Ocean Knows is a marvelous testimony of the passing of age and of the persistence of time: it thrives on the sheer contrasts between the seasons and it is evidence that our moods have always mirrored this omnipresent, natural cycle. If one wants to really understand a record, a process of subtraction is inevitable. The music must be heard in its totality, but after a while, it has to be stripped of its elements, one by one. Only then, the real nature of an album manifests itself and only then, can we appreciate its complexity. With An Autumn for Crippled Children, complexity is revealed by subtracting the screeching, high-pitched vocals and focusing on the music. The likes of Alcest, Mono, Lustre and Nadja parade right in by the listener’s eyes. They appear to be drawing on the blackest facet of their music as if there wasn’t enough desperation on the average blackgaze album.
An Autumn for Crippled Children don’t dwell on melancholy; they exploit it and forge their music in accordance with its sophisticated impetuosity. As if this were a musical proxy for the mist of Friesland (The Netherlands), where the band formed in the second half of the past decade; as if reverb and saturation were merely a means to express loneliness and desperation and not simply a cosmetic tool.
Only the Ocean Knows develops around these concepts and it does it with tracks such as “Yes I Know… Love and Death… Always”, where the synthesis of whatever Mogwai have never achieved in the second part of their career in terms of sonic excess and a feral melody haunt the 5-minute sonic attack. It’s all about compressed guitars and harmonies but you can’t help but appreciate it when the two meet in such an elegant manner. “The Rising Tide” seems to have fallen from the shelves while looking for Joy Division, before exploding in brutal fashion as soon as the melodic circle closes. Whoever said (maybe nobody did) that there is no new wave without The Cure was right: because it is the aptly titled “Uncureable” to give us a hint of what would have happened had Robert Smith taken a more experimental stance on modern music. But it’s only a few seconds anyway, because as soon as the main theme is introduced, mellowness disappears and An Autumn for Crippled Children reappear to deliver yet another attack.
The guitar bellows in an endless fuzz which is somehow more similar to My Bloody Valentine’s “Endless” than it is to anything Alcest has ever done, while the keyboards refrain from taking center-stage by not adding volume, but simply adjoining naked melodies to the compost.
We could say the songs’ structure is predictable and in that, we wouldn’t say anything entirely untrue: this is in fact accurate, and not a bad thing. Not necessarily. A hook, a sonic assault, the song breaks and violence is back with a vengeance. But isn’t it that which our autumns are made of, after all? Only the Ocean Knows is an overdose of sadness injected with contempt by a trio that seems too busy to care about polishing their influences. There is everything a listener could dream of: melody, rawness, poetry, darkness and melancholy. Which means that there is obviously nothing original and it’s all a bit predictable. But let the music speak for itself and your sadness will not disappoint you. Hold on to it until next autumn.