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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sunday Sludge: Sonance - "Like Ghosts"

You'd have a hard time finding a lighthearted American this weekend. Media saturation spills across the pond, so the melancholy is likely hovering over the rest of the world by now. I'm not sure if what we'll hear for today's Sunday Sludge is an antidote to the poison or perhaps a mere extension of the symptom, but there's no denying it's an appropriate and paralleled complement to the mood we've recently had thrust upon us.

I won't contend that a trip with Bristol's Sonance is boiled down to a handful of benzos, but the pharmaceutical effects the band imposes are staggering nonetheless. On Like Ghosts, Sonance broaden the already impossibly expansive metal continuum, utilizing ambient drone to tranquilize listeners between stunning swells and collapses. There's no mold to break, there's simply a tapestry of brilliantly woeful uncertainty, ambient with waves and punitive with walls.

Like Ghosts is like ghosts, but not in a sense of paranormal bumps and whispers. The forty-two minutes on these two tracks breathe and haunt more like an undying memory, surging and waning beyond your wishes. These ghosts are seemingly within you, not around you. You can compartmentalize the chills, but the lucidity is never sealed off. And when you've been lulled to comfort and feel a cool sigh can be enjoyed, you're jarred by descending sludge terror.

That terror is no more immediately evident than on Side A, interrupting a brief hovering swarm. Icy guitar grows poetic, mirroring Slint's tinny Spiderland jabs. Rhythms twist as much as they hammer, with jagged swirls invading every teetering emotion. Tom's vocals cling to Chino's thumbings like drying blood, while Will's tortuous accompaniment sets a landscape of agony that provides no repose. Drone drips as fears are examined with an ambient caution, but the slugs of doom greet that pensive lament. It's devastating and beautiful.

The mood takes center stage on Like Ghosts, but musicianship deserves its moment in the sun. Ben's screwdriven assault on frets is more Alex's violent droog than Thurston's sonic experiment, while the film-score precision on Side B tiptoes with early-hour cold. This is where your bones feel it, Sir. The cackles and windchimes are a sort of harbinger, but for what? Will the fog lift and let the day emerge? Perhaps. But paranoia and bleak gusts follow every sideways glance toward empty fields. Long, incredibly ambiguous, and heady as fuck. Fourteen minutes in, though, doom shakes us from our gorgeous trance and resonates with drift until chiding buoyance clubs us senseless. Sludge atmospheres funnel toward chaos, pushed abruptly and appropriately. Should we expect an end? Sometimes it just happens.

Does isolation hit us as we believe it does? The eyeless, faceless malevolence in waiting is as frightening in thought as it is in presence, so perhaps the isolation shields in any sense. With numbing resonation, these Brits pull at every fear until bones are bare. You're exposed, your fears no longer matter, and the dead air is all you need. Like Ghosts is an album that burrows and lingers long after you've put your head to the pillow. You may find yourself wishing you had the company of lost spirits. These ghosts are much harder to shake.

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