Thursday, November 22, 2007

Grails - 2004 - Redlight



"Grails' second full-length album seems to be influenced by one or more of its members moonlighting in Jackie-O Motherfucker, namely in its appropriation of dirge-like "traditionals" (or at least what sound like folk spirituals) and elaboration of them in a post-rock context. Or perhaps there's just something in the water in Portland, Oregon. Grails' modus operandi on Redlight is to start most tracks with barely there frameworks then slow-build to epiphanic climax and dissolve back into the red-earth clay from which each was spawned. The focal point of violin and guitar from Grails' first album is still intact, but the sound on Redlight is expanded with saxophone (which, when combined with turntable as it is on "Worksong," pulls a page straight from the Jackie-O songbook) and pedal steel, among other instruments. "The Volunteer" is the showcase here with its crawl toward the epic dynamics of a shimmering guitar and moaning sax crescendo. "High & Low" has a plucky junkyard shuffle reminiscent of mid-period Tom Waits, which drops away for a duet of poignant piano and soaring strings. The title track, "Redlight," breaks out of the mold somewhat with a dissonant deviation midway through just to keep things moving briskly, ending with a grandiose string section breakdown. "Fevers" is another standout with its decidedly non-rockist first half calling to mind more symphonic contemporaries such as Godspeed You Black Emperor! and eventual migration into a Ennio Morricone-inspired sense of being in motion, a vein often mined by outfits like Do Make Say Think. Redlight shows Grails shaking off the dust of their previously earthbound existence and taking flight, into the lofty heavens and beyond." ~ AMG

Grails performing Burning off Impurities live at the Spanish Moon in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on May 5, 2007