Aereogramme
Seclusion

Despite their distribution through Matador Records in the earlier part of this decade; Scotland’s Aereogramme have remained in that class of bands who have found their most devoted audience among their musical peers. Rather than speaking/singing directly to a more general fanbase, their albums have trickled-down through the recommendations of their more commercially successful counterparts (Thursday and Flaming Lips are fans).

Seclusion marks my first encounter with the group and as the first couple of songs unfold I can certainly say I am sorry I did not take the plunge earlier. At the same time, 2006 seems like a ripe time for the band to make a play for wider recognition as while their dazed and confused slow-rock certainly recalls divergent strains of the 90’s (think Tool, My Bloody Valentine); the vibe they put forth lines up nicely with such modern progenitors Isis (Aaron Turner does the art here), Mogwai, Godspeed You, Torche and others of that slow, smooth and ponderously heavy ilk.

The main force behind Aereogramme’s songs is the alternately pulsing and droning bass of Campbell Mcneil who is adept at setting and grounding the foundation for these extended, expansive pieces, giving his bandmates freedom to wander around the structure. Martin Scott’s drumming benefits most from this arrangement, while it is difficult to say he is doing anything so wild given the laid-back nature of the music, his rumbling, fill-happy style tends to augment the atmosphere of the tunes rather than provide a backdrop for them, often syncing up with Iain Cook’s programming rather than his guitar-playing. Cook and Craig B’s guitars seem to fight from the bottom of the band’s sound, rather than riding easy on top as is usual in rock music. Plaintive clean, reverberated picking patterns, if they can even be called that, emerge in response to the emotional intensity of the moment rather than any need to be particularly concise and consistent. The melodies are spare dew-droplets of crystal rain, the riffs: surly, abruptly sliding affairs rarely venturing to overpower the other instrumentation even at their heaviest. Only on the final proper song, “Lightning Strikes the Postman” do the two six-stringers become first stringers, one heaving ‘Kashmir’-esque sludge while the other responds with noodling outbursts of radiant leads. Craig B.’s vocals if anything, are what most root the band in 90’s nostalgia, sharing a fragility with such kindred spirits as Billy Corgan, Maynard James Keenan, and Thom Yorke, smoothly gliding over the songs. Unlike the other instruments, his voice can be heard clearly above the rather thick atmosphere, giving this six-song album that power-pop rock feel in terms of the mix.

The final track is an alternate score which leads to the visual component of this release a short film (in essence the title-track as it is called “Seclusion”) conceived by vocalist Craig B. and executed by director Stephen Morris set to the song “Dreams and Bridges”. Evocative and disturbing, the film follows a young girl through an evening of partying which leaves her feeling paranoid and vulnerable as she is continually haunted and harassed by ghostly figures dressed in the guise of death. Fairly cliche in that it all ends up with said girl bleeding in a bathtub after finding out that the grim reaper’s cloak hid her doppelganger all along, but set to the sound of Aereogramme’s music it works well or at least is inoffensively bad, haha. The best part of the interactive side is the gallery which includes a set of pictures of the band ‘dolled-up’ with photoshop to look like crackwhores after a hard night’s work.

All in all a nice, albeit brief reintroduction to these Scot’s brand of slow-driving, atmospheric rock which does whet my appetite to dig a bit deeper into their catalog. Fans of moody, sullen music will appreciate the fragile dynamic of the group’s playing while the thick, spaced out vibe of the tunes should defintely appeal to those who need a little more heft in their art-rock. While nothing ear-catchingly astonishing, Seclusion provides a smooth sound, which while at times adventurous and rarely jarring, always seems to resolve itself on an even-keel, making it ideal for late night/early morning jams. Good stuff.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by John Gnesin
May 25th, 2006

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