Grails CD reviewed by Nick Blakey
Nov 2, 2009, 04:05
GRAILS Doomsdayer's Holiday CD/LP
There is a well known quote, attributed variously to Frank Zappa, Thelonious Monk, Martin Mull, and Elvis Costello, that states “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” While this neglects several certain modern ballets, it also ignores the fact that the Portland, OR instrumental quartet Grails make music that could, in fact, be the foundation for such a performance piece in ode to, say, art deco skyscrapers or burned out factories. What's more, Grails is never boring and always difficult to describe.
It is to Grails' esteemed credit that Doomsdayer's Holiday is not Burning Off Impurities II, though it remains no less heavy. Moving into much darker and ambient territory with far fewer Middle Eastern, Arabic, and North African influences, Doomsdayer's Holiday presents soundtracks to heavily littered streets framing ancient monolithic buildings in disused downtown cityscapes, black driving rain, broken windows, fading streetlamps, and most definitely filmnoir, both modern and classic. The pieces are also structurally more gradual linear expansions rather than rising and falling crescendos, of which Burning Off Impurities relied so much upon (and well).
The relatively short album (just under 38 minutes) is superb through and through. The ghost of Discipline/Three of a Perfect Pair-era King Crimson comes wafting in on the album's second track, “Reincarnation Blues,” and “The Natural Man” offers up ambience and ease, not to mention some lovely flute and piano melodies, without stripping away the soul and backbone of the piece. “Immediate Mate” is a sinister little drifter of industrial blues and twisted free form. “Acid Rain” is a surprisingly positive panoramic piece evoking the climatic end of a movie, not necessarily with the hero winning, but also not necessarily with said hero losing. It also would have fit quite nicely on Pink Floyd's Meddle.
Hopefully sooner than later some enterprising producer will realize the enormous potential of Grails for soundtrack work and will tap them to record something original in the near future. In the meantime, though, we'll just have to settle for the abstract films (and potential modern dances) that their wonderful music can make in one's head. [Temporary Residence]
- Nick Blakey