Insect Ark – The Vanishing (28 February 2020)
Hello again from the unofficial VOS WFH substation. Things are starting to settle down around here, at least to some small degree. At least, we’re all doing the best we can to adapt to this new reality of staying cooped indoors and never interacting with anyone except via a computer or other electronic device. To be honest, aside from no longer driving to and from work each day, that description isn’t all that far from how things have always been for me.
But anyway, disruptions to the day job modus operandi have really wrecked my publishing schedule, especially with large chunks of each day now spent on conference calls and in Skype meetings. But it’s time we get back into doing what we love best around here: talking about music we’ve enjoyed hearing lately and that you also may enjoy hearing.
First up is cinematic doom duo Insect Ark. Since the last time we checked in with them, founder/composer/bassist/slide-guitarist Dana Schechter (who has added collaborating with Swans to an already impressive resume that included work with Wrekmeister Harmonies, Gnaw, and others) has now been joined by new drummer Andy Patterson (who coincidentally had been looking for a new gig following the dissolution of his former band SubRosa right around the same time this group’s drummer had moved on).
And then more recently, Insect Ark‘s third album The Vanishing had just been released and the twosome had just headed out on a scheduled tour of Europe and the UK throughout the month of March, when the whole world suddenly went to hell (leaving the band with numerous cancelled dates and scrambling to find their way back to the USA). So, without any further ado…
“The album’s title refers to a recurring daydream I had of disappearing completely – floating out to sea alone, and never being found,” Schechter explained in the press release. “On a much bigger level, it’s about the impermanence of life itself, trying to retain perspective of how small we really are.” And to be honest, there’s nothing quite like a worldwide viral pandemic to bring into focus that impermanence, and to really drive home the realization that any of us, anywhere, at any time, could instantaneously cease to be. From that respect, The Vanishing just may be the perfect record for 2020.
Fans of 2018’s Marrow Hymns will find a lot to like here, and an instant familiarity in the instrumental voyage between moods — as we described it at that time, from the depressed and downtrodden to the overwhelming and numbing. But this time around, things may seem a bit darker and bleaker, while also a bit more unified under the overarching theme of the record (remember the whole floating away and disappearing forever concept?).
In the opening track, the aptly named “Tectonic,” the ground-shaking overdriven bass combines with the drums for a Melting Euphoria-ic hypnotic groove (just with the psychedelic swirl of steel guitar as accompaniment here, rather than the similar role portrayed in that band by the theremin).
From there, the vast range of the slide guitar is demonstrated: “Three Gates” is more of a traditional doom vibe, and accordingly it takes on somewhat more of a traditional guitar sound; while the more serene “Philae” has a rather — shall we say — Earthy tone.
Steel guitars have long been associated with the swaying, breezy style of tropical (e.g. Hawaiian) music, which is hinted at in the wistful, reverby “Danube” — only in a much more muted, yet haunting way. The penultimate track “Swollen Sun” is entirely made up of synth sounds, cold and inorganic, but then leads into the title track which once again takes on the mantle of dark, doomy blues. This lengthy composition — a poetic suite all on its own — really runs away with the titular concept, sometimes menacing and overbearing, other times meekly fading away, but all throughout, representing the mindset of one pondering the imponderable. Until finally as it descends further and further into chaotic cacophony, the sound simply and suddenly vanishes.
Grab your copy of The Vanishing in MP3/CD/vinyl formats right here.
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