Friday, March 7, 2008
Emeralds/Quintana Roo - Split (Arbor LP)
Ah, Arbor. That most unusual of labels that releases great experimental music in (sometimes) relatively large pressings and beautiful packaging. And to think it's run by a seventeen-year-old... what have I been doing all these years?! In a day where most of the bands on their roster either release the majority of their material themselves or through other like-minded, minuscule-proportioned pressing agents, Arbor puts out high quality vinyl that sounds great and really gives the bands present a chance to do what they do best in a swell environment. So when it was announced that they would be releasing a split LP featuring one of my favorite current bands, Emeralds, I snagged it up right quick. And, as an added bonus, Arbor had chosen to follow in the grand tradition of the split LP, tagging Emeralds up with similarly atmospheric group Quintana Roo, the split release kings (seriously, look into it. it's absurd how many splits these guys have been on...). Anyway, despite their prevalence, they remained a band I heard much of, but whose sonic pleasures had not attained contact with my ear drums. So yay for split releases.
The Emeralds side is titled "Bubble Quiet Complication," and boy do they have a knack for titles. To begin with, I couldn't think of a better band name to brand Emeralds' unique style of blissed-out, droning serenity. Shimmers all green like the stone. Get it? And "Bubble Quiet Complication" is merely a continuation of that apt description, flowing inward and outward, upward and downward, all undulatory-like. You know those phosphorescent algae that hang out in lagoons in Mexico? You wade on into this glowing sapphire ooze in the water, get covered in it, and you actually glow green. Secret of the Ooze anyone? That's about as close as I can get to the sound on this one. It doesn't really go anywhere, just shimmers and glides across the surface. Why would you want to move when your starting point is oh so well-suited to your mind state anyways? The only qualm is that it ends too soon. If I could have this soundtrack my excursion down the Amazon I would. And that's a long trip, I hear. Added bonus is that the label on this side, if held the right way, looks just like a big green jack-o-lantern. A Granny-Smith-o Lantern if you will... and I will!
The Quintana Roo side is another single-pieced side that attains much the same level of transcendental power as the Emeralds', but through vastly different means. Where Emeralds are all about shiny, stagnant poise, "Beheaded Dynasty" brings in a serious dose of tribal warfare. Sure, they move around the place slowly and deliberately, the percussion, trumpet, and synth lines building with great patience. But this is a fuckin onslaught. It is that particular breed of foreboding that can only be achieved by slow and steady repetition, like some far off Mongol army trumpeting their arrival. Thank god they never actually arrive. The trumpet (I think it's a trumpet line, though who knows... could be processed vocals, handmade weirdo electronics, who knows...) is a constant and steady presence, its ethereal quality nicely contrasted with the steady building of the drum line. Vocal lines pass in and out like the ghosts of soldiers past, all heeby jeeby like. When the guitar strums in, the face off begins, and boy does it seem like those Mongols are gonna slay us all with all their clattering wilderness driven intensity. This is heavy shit, and the intimidation lasts good and long, as any session of this sort should. By the end of it, your glad they've marched back into the wilderness, but the adrenaline's still pumping so you decide to shoot off an arrow anyway.
Basically, the album is great, and a must for any fans of the contemporary school of drone. Bonus points to Arbor for the weird portrait on the cover, which somehow encapsulates Quintana Roo's sound better than Emeralds'. But wait. Joy of joys. The vinyl itself is a rich Emerald green. Someone out there likes me, and I think it's Arbor. And Emeralds. And Quintana Roo. Limited to 450 copies, but definitely still snaggable. See, I finally got to one before discussion of it became obsolete! Huzzah!