Bright Shuttle Cold Nice Gold

[Laboratory Standard; 2010]

Styles: post-rock, instrumental
Others: Brokeback, Directions in Music, Mogwai

Cold Nice Gold is the impressive debut record from Bright Shuttle, an instrumental group that draws from post-rock, folk, ambient, and a smidgen of jazz, at its best moments blurring the lines between those genres. They’ve released a handful of CD-Rs before this full-length, with guitarist Scott Murrin being the only constant member, but they’ve solidified into a tight, intuitive trio who favor clean analogue recording with few overdubs.

Opening track “The Mountain City,” the album’s longest cut at 10 minutes, serves as a nice overview of the band’s M.O. — one guitar plays a hypnotic, repetitive figure as another dances around it, providing colorful flourishes while the minimal percussion keeps time, building toward a finale when everyone gets a little bit busier. You’ve heard a similar pattern before in crescendo-rock bands like Mogwai or Mono, but there’s a grittier, earthier sound to Bright Shuttle than with those bands. Climactic, ‘triumphant’ moments probably account for the unlikely popularity of instrumental bands over the past decade plus, but Bright Shuttle are more interested in the build rather than the release. At their loudest, most blatant rock moments, they flirt with crescendo-rock, but are content to explore the possibilities and limitations of a riff or figure before abandoning it and moving on to the next idea, usually with a minimum of fuss.

At times (such as in the dancing underwater feel of “Flowers”), the music can be cold and icy, at others (“Outer Dark,” their rockiest, Neil Youngiest moment) warm and robust; in their most inspired moments (“Meeho”), they bring these sounds together. The centerpiece of the album is the 12-minute suite that kicks off side two. It showcases both Murrin’s playing and the unique sound of the guitars he’s “modified and hotrodded” to summon particular tones. The serpentine solo that winds through “Spooks” leads into “Meeho,” where he lays down an extended, jazzy workout over a bed of lo-fi ambient tones and sparse, brittle percussion.

There is a narrative feel to Bright Shuttle’s music, an arc to the rhythms and melodies that have a beginning, middle, and end. Admittedly, this idea is aided by the song titles, which carry an air of menace and anxiety: “Outer Dark,” “Spooks,” “When It Gets Here,” “Taking Up His Hammer,” “Caves.” The band hails from Knoxville, Tennessee, and took their name and many of their track titles from the novels of Cormac McCarthy, who grew up in the city before lighting out for the West. Some of his work’s dark atmosphere also comes through, though things never turn outright bleak or despairing.

Cold Nice Gold is an LP-only release, limited to 300 copies, available from Laboratory Standard Recordings. It’s one of those records that’s under everyone’s radar, but would likely be appreciated by plenty of listeners with a taste for well-crafted, sonically explorative rock music for the new uncertain times.

Links: Bright Shuttle - Laboratory Standard

Most Read