You’ve seen Simon Fowler’s drawings on record sleeves, walls, and particularly badass torsos, representing the cream of the contemporary doom/drone metal crop: sunn 0))), Earth, Boris. JR Robinson, composer/leader of Chicago-based ensemble Wrekmeister Harmonies, recruited Fowler for the drawings that accompany the forthcoming You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me LP — both on the sleeve itself and the video you see above. In an exercise of time-lapse tension-building, Fowler’s hands flit around the frame with a fast-forward stutter, detailing a flowing geologic mass somewhere between a cloud of vapor and a chunk of the Earth’s mantle striking through the crust. Watch cross-cut shots of the black and white image burgeon into finely shaded complexity as Robinson’s sounds swell from silence into severity.
Robinson demonstrates mastery above all in conceiving an ambitious composition and uniting a cast of collaborators — Fowler included — to realize it. The labyrinthine structure of the one-track album You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me juxtaposes passages of atmospheric electro-acoustic drift with bursts of doom metal that maximize the talents of some of Chicago’s extreme music luminaries (Wrest, Sanford Parker, Bruce Lamont, Mark Solotroff, Mind Over Mirrors, etc.). The 11 minutes excerpted for this video begin in an elegiac haze of oscillator drone and ritualistic chanting, but then progress into a bruising segment of down-tuned guitar sludge, demonic howls, and drum battery — all of which interweave with the violin and cello phrases floating in the high end of the mix. It’s difficult to discern which collaborator plays what here on record, but it’s easy to imagine Robinson’s grey-bearded visage overseeing the proceedings from atop the crag sketched out before us, his hands stretching down through the layer of mist to align the tones pouring from his cast into one cohesive statement.
Thrill Jockey releases You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me in a vinyl-only edition on June 11. You can preorder it now. Meanwhile, JR Robinson will reunite many of the album’s musicians for a performance in Chicago’s Bohemian National Cemetery on June 22.