Then Fell the Ashes ... is challenging, but there are enough spins on a well worn drone rock formula to make the time spent zoning out to it worth the time invested.
Then Fell the Ashes ... is the latest album from Natural Snow Buildings side-project Twinsistermoon and it is a bit of a doozy. Originally released in 2010 on limited-edition vinyl, the LP has now been released on CD for the first time with some updated mixing done to the songs and the addition of one extra track. Being the pet project of France’s Mehdi Amaziane, Then Fell the Ashes … occupies a place that nestles ‘70s feminine folk rock a la Judy Collins or Vashti Bunyan against way-out-there drone rock theatrics. Basically, the record has two types of songs. First up, you get gentle acoustic guitar strums or piano plinking with Amaziane’s high-pitched vocals at the forefront that last only about one or two minutes. Then you get epic space jams that drone harder than a nest of bees, venturing into epic territory: “Black Nebulae” runs five-and-a-half minutes, “The Big Sand” clocks in at 10-and-a-half minutes, and then the title track takes a jaw-dropping 25 minutes to fully unspool. Naturally, this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey.
However, what generally elevates this record from being Neanderthal sludge rock is the presence of the lilting melodies on the shorter material, which serves as an interesting counterpoint to the longer, viscerally brutal – and yet strangely beautiful – slabs of ambient noise that pepper the disc. It doesn’t quite cohere or make sense until you get through about 22 minutes of the sound of a pulsar gradually being extinguished during the aforementioned title track, where the experimentation drops out and the song transforms into folk, freakishly – thus marrying the two distinct styles of the album. Then Fell the Ashes ... is both gorgeous and ugly in the same breath and the mixture of polarizing styles of music makes for an ultimately crushing listen. As the soundtrack to a series of contradictory moods, the variation makes for an experience that goes beyond the usual droning stereotype of a guy with an electric guitar playing drop D tuning, riffing a singular chord repeatedly for half an hour straight – though the album does offer something along those lines. Then Fell the Ashes ... is challenging, and it does get a little wearying on some of the longer tracks, but there are enough spins on a well worn formula to make the time spent zoning out to it worth the time invested.