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Guardian Alien

Spiritual Emergency

(Thrill Jockey; US: 28 Jan 2014; UK: 27 Jan 2014)

Guardian Alien, led by drummer Greg Fox, makes music that is difficult to categorize, though perhaps not to understand. Its effects, and impact, are visceral, its odd parts hitting with a power familiar to all big, audacious music. And yet, on Spiritual Emergency that power is also about carving out space. There are a series of improvised pieces that make up the first half of the record that cut into negative space in different ways. Snippets of voices and frenetic rhythms slash at the dark around them for nearly 10 minutes. Both “Mirror” and “Vapour” are shorter, livelier pieces that cover similar elements but with a more propulsive push. These improvised pieces, rounded out with the grinding drone of “Mirage” are solid, if sometimes fleeting, but they set the table for the title track, a 21-minute epic of swirling guitars, crashing drums, swelling effects. It’s an impressive balance of chaos and control, a fascinating trip down not one but several sonic rabbit holes. It’s impressive enough that some of the other work here feels like they’re just muscle stretches in comparison. This, “Spiritual Emergency”, is the real display, rounding out a solid, ever-shifting album from Guardian Alien.

Rating:

Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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