February 27, 2011

ETERNAL TAPESTRY "Beyond the 4th Door" (Thrill Jockey)

 Chicago's Thrill Jockey imprint has always been 10 steps ahead of themselves, with an ever growing roster of experimental pop and avant-garde's most prolific acts of today.In the last two decades they've given us The Sea and Cake, Tortoise, Pit Er Pat, Trans Am, and a slew of other household names, as well as blossoming young acts like Mi Ami, Arbouretum, Pontiak, and High Places.They've become quite a figurehead in underground music, and seem to be diving a bit deeper into obscurity with each release, with the recent addition of Daniel Higgs, Barn Owl, and Boredoms their family.Portland's Eternal Tapestry are one of their newest and most promising foster children, with a number of well received tape and vinyl releases under their belt.Sharing ex and current members with Plankton Wat, Edibles, Jackie-O-Motherfucker, Cloaks, and Heavy Winged, this group of psych-visionaries are no strangers to sonic experimentation, and have given Thrill Jockey their most focused and compelling opus to date.

 Behind the 4th Door contains five epic movements in just over 40 minutes, just as you've come to expect from E-Tap.Fans of their last two scorchers, 2009's "The Invisible Landscape" and "Palace of the Night Skies" will no doubt get their fix of pummeling guitar chops and pounding drums, but they've taken a chunk of their patented Zeppelin-esque freak outs, and transformed them into sprawling, radiant beauty.Unlike the aforementioned, Behind..takes a somewhat different path into the psych abyss, as they've an entirely new environment for their loose guitar improvisations to run free.Now, these aren't the typical, mindless "stoner jams" that are so easily forgotten, although they've certainly been tagged with the term a countless number of times.Whether or not they'd ripped a 10 foot bong before heading into the studio, E-Tap confidently display a style of improvisation that is just as controlled and focused, as it is sporadic and random.There's obviously a strong connection between this talented bunch, as their blinding chemistry shines brightly within the swell of each movement.

 The album's opening track, "Ancient Echoes" seems to set a pleasant and inventive tone for the entire record, with it's distant guitar noodling and slow moving drum sweeps and creeping bass.The addition of breathy, subtle vocals gives the song a bit more depth, and meaning.Although the words are unclear, it's a rather nice touch.As the album slowly rolls on, the moods shift from dark, brooding echoes, to bright and gentle clarity.The band shows us their eternal lust for heavy riffing and crashing drums, with the 7+ minute "Galactic Derelict".The song chimes in with a low, buzzing riff and staggering drums, as the two axe men burn through just about every effects pedal and guitar manipulation out there.A saxophone wails off in the distance, and accompanies the low end perfectly.As the percussion starts to pound away a bit louder, a heavy chord repeats and holds things together, as the other guitar builds up with a bendy, repetitive run.It sounds like they're both stumbling uphill from opposite sides, unaware of the other's existence.When the two finally meet at the top, they blindly collide head first, to form a vibrant, soaring harmony, loosely intertwined yet calculated, and gives the song an exhilarating finish, and the album is only half way gone.The closing track, clocking in at just over 12 minutes, is a  patient, and slowly burning tune called "Time Winds Through a Glass, Clearly".It carefully swims through a sea of layered guitar drones, and organ pulses, with each instrument taking their turns in the foreground at random.Just as you think you've figured out where it's all heading, things pick up and head in the other direction, with an unexpected key change.This reminds me of Grails' blackened post-rock, with that underlying world music influence hiding deep withing it's core.You will most likely find a handful of similarities between E-Tap and your favorite modern and/or classic psych-rock outfits, but this one delivers quite generously, and offers new discoveries with listen.Highly recommended.
 Practice your levitation skills to the "Galactic Derelict" video, below.

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