The Goslings Occasion

[Not Not Fun; 2008]

Styles: doom, sludge, shoegaze
Others: My Bloody Valentine, Sunn O))), Nadja, The Angelic Process

Like many, I was excited to hear whatever The Goslings would produce after 2006’s richly rewarding full-length Grandeur of Hair. That album paired blissfully buried shoegaze-style vocals with overpowering noise and sludge, concocting the musical equivalent of peanut butter meeting chocolate, two things that were just destined to be together. The end result left pretty much anyone with a fondness for such things drooling. The dust has settled, and now, two years on from the racket they kicked up back then, we’re left wondering what’s next from Leslie and Max Soren’s delightful little group.

Occasion fortunately picks right up where Grandeur of Hair left off. The album’s first track, “Mew,” is a bludgeoning mess of down-tuned noise and industrial clang. It isn’t until roughly seven minutes into the record’s second track, “Parsley Halo,” when Leslie’s otherworldly moaning rises out of the din. “Vitium,” “Motorcade,” and “Brohm Bramin” round out the first half of Occasion with more of the same ethereal, violent mix that makes the band’s music an astonishing success.

The downside to creating something so strikingly brilliant and original is the pressure to come up with a follow-up effort that raises the bar. For the first half of Occasion, The Goslings fail to do more than maintain the status quo. The five-track stretch at the beginning merely repeats the Grandeur of Hair formula. On the back half, the album loses its footing and comes close to complete failure. “Incense of Death” is a bluesy instrumental that sounds at odds with the entire rest of the album, and “Mandy” is a glorified practice jam with percussion that’s paper-thin compared to the brutish clutter that adds texture to the other songs. The album ends with “Little Horn,” another short instrumental that follows The Goslings’ template without offering much else due to its frustrating brevity.

So, what I can tell you for certain is that the first five tracks would have made a stunning EP, and that the last three weigh it down needlessly. Let’s just hope the law of diminishing returns on the style of music they’ve crafted doesn’t end up reading like the Sigur Rós handbook, by which we’ve already seen them at their best and can only look forward to lesser versions of the same thing. For now, Occasion is a decent album to tide us over. I’m reserving final judgment for Round Three.

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