Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark
Instrumental music hit the past two decades hard in the form of post-rock. Its cinematic nature has lent itself to popular movies, sports documentaries, and nature film. Bands like Sigur Rós, This Will Destroy You, Mogwai, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and A Silver Mt. Zion have been at the top of the post-rock game for the past five years, but there are a couple bands that still manage to slip past the cracks and onto message board obscurity. Portland-based Grails have released the sequel to their 2006 collection, Black Tar Prophecies Vols. 1, 2 and 3. Black Tar Prophecies Volumes 4, 5 and 6 come in the form of something hovering just out of the realm of traditional post-rock. Instead of face-melting swells, overwhelming crescendos, repeating phrases and lots of reverb, Grails pulls from ’70s prog and space rock.
“I Want a New Drug” starts off with a processed sample of the spiritual, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” Maybe an odd choice, but it does set the tone for the rest of the album– dark and spacey. The slow pulsing synth and continuous use of creepy samples can be seen as a nod to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Hell, let’s see if this album synchs up with that flick Gravity. Maybe Sandra Bullock screams in tune to Grails’ guitars.
The album then launches into “Self-Hypnosis,” a bluesy, stoner-rock guitar track that’s just waiting to be at your next hemp party (or whatever your parents call “doing drugs” these days). It’s odd to hear anything but film score, prog or dream pop influences in an instrumental group’s release, but it’s somewhat refreshing to not hear the same “uplifting” crescendo used in a lot of post-rock songs.
Songs like “Wake Up Drill II” and “Pale Purple Blues” are more “jammy” than anything. Both songs are four-to-five minutes of textures, guitar licks and what even seems like improv. This type of song is usually tacked onto other tracks as jam sections, but it seems Grails is trudging through new territory.
“New Drug II” is basically “I Want a New Drug,” but scarier. Seriously, picture the ghost of a Victorian-era chid standing at the end of your grandmother’s hallways, eating an endless strawberry ice cream cone. It starts slowly approaching you, but in a strobe-like fashion, almost teleporting in slow frames towards you. You’re so scared that you can’t run. You fall backwards and your hands hit the ground first, just enough for you to scuttle to the edge of your doorway. But it’s too late. Elias, the polio-ridden dessert boy has already made his way to your bed, awaiting your arrival.
Grails have succeeded in creating a new environment to play in. No longer are they just holding the listeners by the hand and making them feel what they want them to feel; they’re putting the listeners in a dark room and hoping they decide what to feel before it’s too late to feel it.