Release Date: Mar 8, 2011
Record label: Temporary Residence
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Post-Rock, Experimental Rock
Masters of atmosphere, Grails return with a new period piece—though that period is the ’80s in a future sci-fi parallel dimension. Straddling the line between wooshy Sega Genesis menu music and cinematic Pink Floyd maelstrom, Deep Politics is creepy and grand, and at its core is a sonic feast. The songs are lyricless, but one listen to “I Led Three Lives” will render you speechless and possibly thoughtless, but rich in strange visions.
Grails began as a post-rock unit that delivered moments of absolute beauty inside blown out; heavy rock power plays. On 2008's Doomsdayer's Holiday, the quartet began to reply more on post-production -- ambient textures, lush overdubs, understated samples, and washed-out backdrops -- to expand their reach. On Deep Politics, it's an inseparable element in their sound.
Churning synths to starkly impressive effect. Stunning. The first full-length in three years for the prodigious Portland post-rock quartet sees them shift their sonic terrain once more, turning down the heaviosity evident on ‘Doomsdayer’s Holiday’ in favour of a more desolate cinematic vibe, albeit in keeping with the band’s transcendental psychedelic vibe.
Experienced live, Portland’s own instrumental behemoths Grails are a surprisingly jittery bunch. They veer rather quickly from differing musical motifs, creating a tapestry of themes rather than developing one idea to its inevitable climax. It makes them rather a different prospect than the majority of American instrumental groups, at least when they’re performing right in front of you, and 2008’s wonderfully bleak Doomsdayer’s Holiday LP showed that they could hold the interest and distill those wilfull about-turns on record.
At this point, you'd have an easier time rattling off all the kinds of music Portland instrumental rockers Grails don't make than the kinds they do. They have not, to my knowledge, released a hip-hop track; the klezmer influence is negligible. Beyond that, though, their shapeshifting post-rock seems capable of swallowing genres whole. And Deep Politics, their latest, is among their richest, most expansive offerings to date.
Grails, as their live performances show, are a powerfully mesmerizing group of musicians. Where other instrumental rockers are more concerned with being overwhelming, their brand of panorama is replete and intricate. They present their music as a chamber ensemble, never feeling jammy or meandering, while the moods are exotic and transporting, creating decidedly ‘other’ realms that make you feel like a stranger in your own land (assuming you don’t live in the Eastern hemisphere).