Locrian// Return to Annihilation
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — A drone falls in the woods
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: facebook.com/locrianofficial | myspace.com/thelocrian
Release Dates: EU: 2013.06.21 | NA: 06.25.2013
Have you ever wondered what happens to the music nobody listens to? It implodes. It does not even make any noise. It simply withers unnoticed, forgotten, unwanted. Then there is the music that stays: that particular strain of artistic endeavour that appeals to the masses and (sometimes) the niches and that we are taught not to live without. Locrian are the natural evolution (some may say ‘consequence’) of the Chicago scene of the late 90s where acts like Tortoise, Isotope 217, and Gastr Del Sol flourished and kept the territory safe from the dying throes of grunge. That particular scene has neither been forgotten, nor particularly acknowledged this side of the twenty-first century for reasons we won’t delve into here. What matters is that the band which just a bunch of months ago released the album which was arguably the zenith of their career (The Clearing: their debut on Relapse) is back with yet another challenge to the canons of rock.
If last year’s split with Aaron Turner’s Mamiffer was to be considered the premise to a slightly more melodic approach and a mediation between the two extremes of experimentalism (‘too much’ and ‘way too much’), Return to Annihilation is the development of fresh ideas in accordance with a renewed aesthetics and gusto for melodic solutions.
Repetitions, repetitions, repetitions, repetitions, repetitions, repetitions. Return to Annihilation is no Terry Riley’s In C, fair enough, but its dynamics are closer to minimalism than they are to rock. Because Locrian’s music is a long, protracted contemporary demonstration of what Arvo Pärt saw in creativity. “In art everything is possible, but everything is not necessary”, he argued. And Locrian must have thought about these words long and hard, because the title-track of Return to Annihilation is clearly a sexual affair between the drones and a simple music mantra whose nature is somehow similar to the 12 great minutes of a monolithic track like Shellac’s “Didn’t We Deserve A Look At You The Way You Really Are”. And the fact that the album has been recorded by Greg Norman at Steve Albini’s Electric Audio means that there is more than a connection between these two apparently distant worlds.
Return to Annihilation is black metal, noise, krautrock, post-rock and something else, but none of the above at the same time. The strangely buoyant opening track (“Eternal Return”) is a bold departure from Locrian’s previous releases and you will be excused for thinking that Explosions in the Sky is a new point of reference for André Foisy, Terence Hannum and Steven Hess. Because it isn’t. “Eternal Return” is instead a manifesto of what happens to be on an album that draws from all kinds of genres in such a clever way that one is left wondering “what next?” without really wanting to find an answer.
Neu! and Magma, Earth and Ruins, Guapo and Throbbing Gristle: the album seems to follow a stream of consciousness shared by all three musicians and this means that at times it may appear rather vague in the consistency department. But this is a great plus when the culprits are three men with talent and all the right influences, as all songs are apparently simple, almost primitive in terms of structure and dynamics, but not a single note would have sounded better played by any other musician. After all, a tune entirely built on a very basic drum fill like “A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven” can only be this exciting when played with this intensity by the very same people who recorded masterpieces like their collaboration with Christoph Heemann (2012), The Clearing (2011) and New Dominions (2011).
For a band, having to deal with so many genres means facing the big dilemma of whether to let the inspiration flow in the direction of progressive music. Locrian are no exception to this unwritten rule and the various hints on the album (the guitars on “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light”, for instance) suggest this may be where the band will be headed next. It is maybe no coincidence that the final track seems to pay homage to the likes of King Crimson and Anekdoten, but what is certain is that Locrian manage to sound like Locrian throughout the whole record.
Return to Annihilation is a pitch-black journey lead by a band that has managed to mould its inspiration in such a way that has made its own sound easily recognisable and personal. Locrian are one of those bands that will never cease to amaze those who want to be surprised and are not satisfied – just like yours truly – with what rock music has to offer today.
‘Too much’ or ‘way too much’? Don’t let me state the obvious.