The Sad Sea
This Texas band’s latest offering is as grand and sweeping as the state itself (full discloser, I am a native son... So O.K. I left when I was six, but still...). Like all Texans, these folks like to spin a yarn. This tall-ish tale tells of the search for the ghost ship “Marie Celeste.” It recounts a seafaring journey from Galveston Texas to Haiti in the middle of hurricane season.
“From Harbor” is a pastoral piece with strings, minimal drums and guitars that gently lap along the surface. It sounds like early Rachel's meets Mogwai's classic “Ten Rapid.” The gentle beauty of the piece might mislead the listener about the intensity to come. “The durac sea low tide” actually opens with what sounds like wind. The violins soar as the drumming slowly builds, first with cymbals then on toms and bass drum. It then pulls back before the expected crescendo. In “Marie Celeste” the strings seem thicker and more ominous; it almost enters a Tony Conrad type territory. It builds layer upon layer. Unlike Conrad there is variation in the drone; slight changes, while minimal, create a forward movement.
I am not sure what the reference to Black Sabbath means in the song title “Equator in the mean time (Black Sabbath).” I am not as up on my Sabbath as I should be. Anyways, you can feel free to throw the horns or spark a lighter during this song if you would like. It is the most intense of the disc so far. Instead of Black Sabbath, this reminds me of the more eastern-tinged dirges by Bardo Pond.
“The shore line disappeared” is back to the pastoral beauty of the first song--piano and chiming guitars and what sounds like a saxophone-like tone, but I think is a violin fed through a pedal. The piano has suggestions of Peter Jefferies’ playing at its most plaintive. It fades out with layered violins.
“The Dirac sea (high tide)” also has the feel of early Mogwai. The drums for the first time are way out front. The Guitar and Violin tussle for dominance. There are electronic water-like gurgles in the background that end the song.
The song title “The captain goes down with the ship (sinking)” gives you an idea of the somber tone of this song. The guitar drones ominous tones, while the violins rise and fall on an foreboding sea. If the ship is sinking it is sinking slowly. The last song “The captain goes down with the ship (drowning)” is noticeably more intense. The drums are fuller, and the guitar is also in front instead of supporting the violins. It builds and builds but before the release they pull back. The drummer starts pounding out a military march and the violins let out last sorrowful tones. Hotel Hotel have made an exceptionally beautiful record. One complaint, and it is slight, is that I really wish, maybe on just one song, they fully exploded. Otherwise no sophomore slump for these guys.(Silber) (Dan Cohoon)