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The Grey Knowledge

Beef Terminal
The Grey Knowledge
(Noise Factory Records)

Beef Terminal is one M.D. Matheson of Toronto, and if you let his music alone act as a soundtrack for your life, you may end up depressed pretty darn quick. Falling somewhere into that amorphous label of post rock, he veers between lo-fi ambience that is both cinematic and stark, and tracks where guitar melodies unfold over looped electronic beats. In an age where so many groups have opted for almost aseptic recording techniques, it's the soft hiss of analog that not only gives this release a very human touch, but a soft edge that works in its favor.

Opening with "Her Eyes Turn Black," the disc starts out like a sedated soundtrack for a spaghetti western. A hollowed-out kick drum pulses somewhere off in the distance, sounding like the beat of a neighbor playing their stereo too loud, while some strummed guitar melodies intertwine and play off one another in slow motion while woozy keyboards drift high in the mix. Eventually, the tick tock of a drum machine enters and the guitar parts rise up and spiral for a small crescendo, peaking without ever getting too loud. On "An Early Start," a miniscule guitar loop provides the only propulsion, while warm guitar reverbs echo in the background and sparse bass notes provide only a minor anchor in the haze.

Elsewhere, the album moves in slightly different directions from the more drifting opening tracks. "Whirlybird" chugs along with a rich low end pulse while disembodied voices float in the background and chiming guitar melodies ring out over it all. "Marson Lane" and "Red Sky Take Warning" both feature programmed loops that fall into a more breakbeat style, but the guitar melodies that play out on each of them feel downright upbeat, and it helps to breath some life into an album that feels a bit gloomy. "Steadfast" goes the route of almost Wolfgang Voigt texture, mixing soft electronic pulses over subtle waves of noise and some more of those sampled phone conversation sounds.

Matheson even pulls off a cover on the release, a dark and somber version of the Eurythmics "This City Never Sleeps." With ringing guitars over a pulsing drum machine monotone vocals, it sounds like something that could have come off an early Labradford release (a comparison that actually holds true with several of the more sparse, cinematic tracks on the release). Closing out somewhat similarly as it began, the album-titled "The Grey Knowledge" clops along with a barely-there click percussion track while guitars snake in the background through swirling wind and what sounds like a television from the 50's playing a public service announcement from the bottom of a lake. Having heard his debut album, it's kind of a surprise that any light at all peeks through the cracks on the release, but for the most part this is still a fairly dour release, suited nicely for barren winter landscapes and cold nights crouched under thick blankets.

Rating: 6.75