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Telegraphs In Negative/Mouths Trapped In Static

Set Fire To Flames
Telegraphs In Negative/Mouths Trapped In Static
(Alien8 Recordings)

On their previous release Sings Reign Rebuilder, Set Fire To Flames holed themselves up in an abandoned house that was slowly falling apart and recorded a sprawling batch of sound that served both as a great document of their environment, as well as simply great music. Telegraphs In Negative/Mouths Trapped In Static is the follow-up to that release, and to say that it takes a little more time to get into would be a definite understatement. Spread out over two CDs and running almost an hour and a half in length, it's obviously a longer release, and it's also quite a bit less 'musical' overall.

Whereas the last release felt slightly more like songs strung together with field recordings and other bits of captured sound, Telegraphs In Negative/Mouths Trapped In Static is sort of the other way around. There is lots of scraping and noises captured from the recording process. In terms of capturing an actual environment in which this music can be created, it's actually a better document. Because of how the release is constructed, it's almost maddening at times to listen to, simply capturing ambient noises, scratching of chairs moving across floors, pages turning. It's monotonous, yet it's also claustrophobic. If the goal of the project was to document a sort of cabin fever, then it succeeds in spades.

Despite the sometimes crazed proceedings, there are moments that peek through the rather bleak feeling of it all and really resonate. The album opening track of "Deja, Comme Des Trous De Vent, Comme Reproduit" builds to a glorious crescendo of chiming guitar melodies and some clanging percussion before the ray of sun disepates and leaves the listener struggling through the darkness. "Small Steps Against Inertia/Echo Of A Dead End" mixes some bleak violins with a field recording of what sounds like someone getting ready to head out of from solitude and into the world. Boots scuff across a floor, a belt rustles, and keys and coins jangle into the recesses of a pocket. The track ends with a door opening and closing, and then the album is off into an even more obtuse track in "Measure De Mesure," a barely-there track comprised of tiny scrapes and an almost innaudible backdrop of a beach. As if that weren't enough, the release continues in the same vein on the next track, another scraped-together piece that has no beginning or end, just sort of captures the skronks of some horns and more droning soundscapes.

Fortunately, the album comes back with what is easily one of the best songs of the release in "Sorrow Shoots Her Darts," a flat-out amazing piece of subtle guitar/strings/drums that makes you remember the real potential of a project like this. The 15-minute "In Prelight Isolate" has some great moments as well, feeling like one of those improvisations in which all players slowly feel out their ground before coming converging into something great. The second disc starts out joyously, as the awesome-titled "Your Guts Are Like Mine" lets guitar lonely strums echo out to eternity before "Fukt Perkusiv/Something About Bad Drugs, Schizophrenics, And Grain Silos" hiccups and jerks through a claustrophobic array of fret squeaks and human screams, charging headlong into a howling nightmare of sound that's as weird and interesting as the collection of musicians has ever done.

The second disc actually works a little better than the first, as the musical elements are not only more, but even more widely varied. "And The Birds Are About To Bust Their Guts With Singing" mixes toybox and swelling strings to great effect, while the closing track of "This Thing Between Us Is a Rickety Bridge Of Impossible Crossing/Bonfires For Nobody..." is one of those static-filled desolate guitar pieces that the group seemingly kicks out in their sleep (but still does so well). Overall, the release could have easily been trimmed down to a single disc and about 65 minutes (closer to the length of the original) in order to make it a much more solid release, but when you're caught in the midst of a frenzied musical session while isolating yourself and enduring a bit of cabin fever, it's probably a bit harder to make those sorts of decisions. As it stands, many listeners will find themselves tested a bit, but the second disc goes a long way in redeeming the first and if you get snowed-in this coming winter it may speak perfectly to any voices you may hear in your head.

Rating: 6.5