Music

Division Day: Visitation

Dan Johnson

Scorning the successful sound of their debut, Division Day strikes back with a dark, murky album obscured in delay and waves of sonic wash.


Division Day

Visitation

Label: Dangerbird
US Release Date: 2009-08-18
UK Release Date: 2009-08-18
Amazon
iTunes

Foreboding, murky and pensive. Visitation, the second full-length release from Los Angeles-based mood-rock outfit Division Day conjures a smoky sonic dream, with packaging, eerie tracking and a title that rather accurately constructs an unfamiliar, though not unpleasant, whole. Gone are the crisp timbres of Beartrap Island. Instead, heavy instrumental washes lap over one another and create waves of melody and noise that obscure clarity in favor of a crafty group identity. The result is an unexpected departure from the band’s bright debut and a movement towards uncharted waters of musical mysticism.

On the cover of Visitation, a blue-skinned mystery woman accompanies futuristic, geometric script carrying the album title. Within, the single fold of glossy red with black undertones of the CD booklet and disc hint at the monolithic and dark content of the music beyond. Alien imagery, complete with azure women and blood-red vistas, frame the idea of Visitation as a murky, mysterious alternative to the accessible sounds that helped break Division Day into the music scene.

Justin Meldal-Johnson, famed for his work with Beck and the Nine Inch Nails, lent his production skills to Visitation. The troupe engineered a brooding album whose tracks emphasize a cold whole instead of a collection of vivid components. Most noticeably, Rohner Segnitz and Seb Bailey’s vocals remain largely obscured throughout the album. With few exceptions, their androgynous croons are shadowy and warbled phrases. Stretching and bending over the waves of programming and guitars beneath them, the words have a subdued fervency that remains veiled in milky delays and robotic doubling.

Kevin Lenhart’s drums are curiously accentuated in Visitation. The blustery timekeeper seems over-mixed and raucous compared with his melodic bandmates, whose instrumental additions seem to suffer for the percussive prominence. Nevertheless, the sometimes organic/sometimes synthetic rhythmic collections on Visitation are intent on capturing the listener’s ear and driving the album against an overarching macabre, downbeat feel.

The most alien aspect of Visitation’s sonics are the mixed-down guitars and keys that stood out so much in the band’s debut. Programmed and patterned with expert nuance, the finer notes in the band’s repertoire shine through the murky storm on tracks like “Devil Light”, “Planchette” and “My Prisoner”. Haunting, these instruments seem subdued and restrained. For the band’s capabilities with production and aural shaping, the deliberate movement towards warped and obscured instrumentation seems a curious, albeit intriguing maneuver.

Though somewhat disappointing on a pure listening level, the album’s instrumental mixes and vocal textures sound complete within the mysterious context of the album as whole. Thematically, Visitation hits as an enigmatic, sometimes macabre world of alien thoughts and mystery. Like its namesake, a precious emerald stone known for its majestic ripples of fine tones within a larger green landscape, “Malachite” builds on repetitive, cresting guitars, celestial choruses and hypnotic phrasing. When the track breaks into the jarring bridge, the words “my skin had changed” hit in an unusual moment of clarity. Division Day casts a hazy spell over the album’s second track and prepares for an album of potent incantations.

The beautiful, wavy balled “Azalean” evokes a similar magic with quietly stated and beautifully phrased imagery. Ripe with the lyrical allure of still water and gossamer reflections on a warm night, the track casts keyboard ambiences as soft ripples beneath the echoes of flickering light heard in four-note guitar accompaniments behind Segnitz’s nostalgic moan. The somatic wash spills into “Devil Light”, where sharp pointed rhythms press over ghosting, sequenced background whispers of electronic insight.

Strung out, buzzing guitars on “Planchette” capture the album’s eeriest track, a reference to an early Ouija board that finds Division Day as a medium between ours and another world. The long sustains that illuminate the track build with “Carrier” and eventually warble into the stringy synth harp, hand claps, and droning bass on the album’s title track and the cacophonous shades of “My Prisoner”.

Visitation is an intriguing album that reveals Division Day’s aptitude for dynamic music. Murky and somewhat inaccessible, the album paints shades of the dark, forbidden and macabre in textures that contrast directly with the crisp tones of its predecessor. As a change of direction it is a successful album. However, the often-muddy production leaves much to be desired with its rough mixes and occasional lack of definition. Nevertheless, the album stands as a complex and compelling article of modern rock.

7

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image