In an effort to describe the visual work of Shirazeh Houshiary, it was suggested that it had a "presence," like light, which required experience in order to be comprehended. This also holds true for Yellow Swans' newest release, At All Ends. With this, their second album for Load Records, Gabriel Salomon and Pete Swanson present a work exquisite in the weight of its melodic presence and brutal in its devastating beauty. It is a work that seeks to assert itself beyond the limitations set upon it by its recorded form.
"At All Ends" begins the album with a series of passages, looping and dissolving in absolute reflexive response beneath their own counterclockwise fallout. These motifs move at the pace of hallucinatory trailings, in constant progression toward their final end, succumbing to an aggressive flare of guitar strum and feedback. This final sequence brings to full view the primary foundation from which their work is birthed: noise. And while sonic explorations that fall within this practice are often considered lacking in expressive qualities, this couldn't be further from what's on play here. Building upon this infrastructure of noise, Yellow Swans have fused elements of shoegaze, wherein the melodic basis of the record finds root. This component elevates the proceedings beyond what could have potentially been a fixed exercise in dissonant scree and feedback.
"Mass Mirage," a blur of somber guitar harmonics submerged in audio grain and rubble mixed with Pete's obliterated vocals, is a prime example of this influence. It's not difficult to hear the influence of Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, or Loveliescrushing fixed within their open-mouthed, skyward-eyed noise, nor is it a task to hear the influence of the archetypes -- dream pop and space rock -- of shoegazers in the cathartic extremes. "Our Oases" is similarly invested in this celestial gazing, with expansive, divinity-invested ambience buried beneath seething guitar figures and vocal phantasma. And while shorter by half, the transcendent effect is undeniably achieved. Deconstructed in comparison, but no less entrenched in metaphysical otherness, "Stretch the Sands" is a panorama of scorched undulation laid bare before your eyes. The album reaches a final transcending moment through the slow, unfolding melody of the somber guitar on album closer "Endlessly Making An End Of Things," which radiates outward from a shadow in majestic climb; spiritual absolutism perhaps, but profoundly affecting.
With At All Ends, it's clear Salomon and Swanson are progressively moving toward an openly pronounced use of melody, which will assuredly continue to alienate them from noise die-hards. Conversely, their decisive use of noise will alienate listeners easily frustrated by the squalls of feedback and electronics. It would be a shame, however, for any listener, regardless of their biases, to be lost on this record. Indeed, their melding of ideas induces an "unknown knowing," coaxing the listener into an absolute state of self akin to the work of Francisco Lopez and John Duncan. The element of "noise" is transcended, becoming an unobtrusive extension of the achieved infinite state. Records capable of provoking such psychotropic transitions come along very infrequently; do not miss out on this one.