Music

Entrance: Book of Changes

Echoing the past can be more problematic than it is cool, a case made by the first Entrance release in a decade.


Entrance

Book of Changes

Label: Thrill Jockey
US Release Date: 2017-02-24
UK Release Date: 2017-02-24
Amazon
iTunes

It's been a decade since Guy Blakeslee issued a recording under the Entrance moniker, a span that would have, in previous times, seemed an eternity. You can’t hear the intervening years as you wind your way through these tracks, but you can hear occasional traces of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, psychedelic pop, the spirit of Lee Hazelwood and others who have paved the way with masterfully rendered songwriting. That’s not always a good thing. Touchstones such as those mentioned have become prominent enough that they’ve transformed into cliché.

Laurel Canyon has become a catchall for anything with an acoustic guitar a little reverb. Hazelwood, a prophet for the hipper classes, also proves problematic. There’s a spooky hollowness to his material, a proclivity for contrivance. Blakeslee’s influences, no matter how proudly and openly he wears them, should not work against him, nor should the work of the past masters be given credit for a younger artist’s victories. What works here is Blakeslee’s to celebrate, what doesn’t is his to own as well.

For all this talk of the past, Blakeslee doesn’t get stuck there. He visits, plucking the best parts for his journey back to the now. “Molly” borrows some of its most harrowing moments from the Hollies’ “Bus Stop". Our hero plays the torch singer to the max. We can hear the torture in his soul, the agony that sticks him with each note, each line. It’s the perfect line walk between drama and melodrama and wraps with the complete collapse into the weight of heartbreak and dissatisfaction. “Winter Lady” follows a less pain-driven but no less satisfying trajectory, the titular woman remaining as mysterious at the track’s beginning as she is at the end.

That’s problematic, though. The latter tune is filled with abstractions, ones that may have worked in Hazelwood’s time (especially when he was writing songs for Swedish television specials) or in the hour of courtly love. Contemporary listeners might want something more specific, some details that reveal what makes this maiden the quintessence of said season. Blakeslee mentions November, summer and the arrival of this cold, cold season but no convincing narrative emerges. Those aren’t jabs at the artist. He’s committed to this woman’s mysteries and makes us believe in them even if he’s not as committed to emotional specificity.

Other, better moments include the less fashion-conscious “Always the Right Time”, during which Blakeslee aches like a postmodern Roy Orbison. “I’d Be a Fool” ably balances danger and the blues during its finest moments, becoming bathed in deep drama. By its end (which isn’t quite as succinct or powerful as we might hope), we have no choice but to imagine it as the centerpiece of some high-stakes cinematic opus or other.

“Summer’s Child”, meanwhile, transcends its production and influenced-based trappings, revealing that, somewhere deep inside, there’s a beautiful song that can still get out and impress us with its best emotional qualities. “Leaving California” is probably the best piece here for much the same reason, to say nothing of its perfect balance of the universal and the particular, that balance that (in case you didn’t notice) seems hard to come by here. (“Revolution Eyes” is also very good because it’s non-derivative and emotionally transparent.)

Book of Changes isn’t a lost cause. It can be an enjoyable affair, especially for those who are more willing to forgive its vagaries and embrace those high abstractions. Others will no doubt be more generous with the influences on display here, finding them less of a distraction, something that will enhance the listening experience. You may very well be one of those listeners and if you are, then you’re probably better for it.

Blakeslee probably has a fantastic Entrance album in him, one that will make him an artist that others watch and wish to emulate. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take him another decade to unveil it.

6

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
9

With The Perfect Nothing Catalog, composer Conrad Winslow explores attention and arrangement with assistance from the Cadillac Moon Ensemble and Aaron Roche.

The album cover, in a way, tells you everything. It's simple: a cardboard box with two pieces of tape: one from the box's original packing, the other haphazardly slapped on. They imply two separate states–ordering and reordering, original state and redefined context. The Perfect Nothing Catalog, the debut recording from Alaska-born, Brooklyn-based composer Conrad Winslow, invokes this very idea of objects and ideas placed, shuffled, and replaced, provoking questions of how arrangement shapes meaning.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Film

In 'Downsizing' Shrinking Means Big Money and Bigger Problems

Matt Damon and Jason Sudeikis in Downsizing (2017) (Photo by Photo credit: Paramount Pictures - © 2017 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.) (IMDB)

Being the size of a dog's chew toy might not be to everybody's taste, but it's certainly a shortcut to a kind of upper middle-class luxury unobtainable for most of humanity.

Just imagine you're a character in Alexander Payne's circuitous and occasionally perceptive new comedy Downsizing: You were pre-med, but you dropped out of school to take care of your mother. Now you're an occupational therapist at Omaha Steaks. You and your wife are treading water both economically and in your relationship. But still, you face every day with just enough gee-whiz optimism that life never quite turns into a grind. But then, something happens. Some Swedish researchers figured out a way to shrink the average human down to a mere five inches tall without any adverse side effects. There are risks to avoid, like not leaving metal fillings in during the shrinking process (exploding heads, you know).

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image