Rope Heresy, and then Nothing but Tears

[Family Vineyard; 2006]

Rating: 4.5/5

What is it about the transplanting of Polish rock musicians upon U.S. soil that
is so conducive to severe melancholy and bleakness of temperament? Just when I
thought Smolken's (of Dead Raven Choir) adoption/mutation of the depression-era
Appalachian folk-blues idiom was the very epitome of scary, along come Chicago's
Rope, who consist of Polish expatriates Przemyslaw Krzysztof Drazek (handling
the band's extensive palette of guitar textures) and vocalist/bassist Robert
Iwanik. Though the group is loosely aligned with the Chicago math-rock scene and
garners comparisons to bands such as U.S. Maple and Don Caballero, in addition
to elements of New York's No Wave constituency, their sound is actually more
akin to a dirgier, more abstract Larsen, if that band were fronted by Bob from
Twin Peaks. Though the music of Rope is dissonant at times, replete with the
angular, sometimes meandering textures commonly associated with No Wave, it is
executed with a technique that betrays the undeniable influence of modern
Eastern Bloc classical composition — perhaps even the more terrifying works of
Rope's fellow countryman Krzysztof Penderecki.

Like the aforementioned Dead Raven Choir, Rope appear to have taken a number of
cues from the now-burgeoning black metal scene. Once black metal finally
developed into what is generally considered, of late, to be a viable and
legitimate art form, freed (mostly) from its dogmatic associations with Satanism
and Nazism, it began to metamorphose into a primitive, viral force whose
influence suddenly crossed genre boundaries. Groups like Khanate and Bohren &
Der Club of Gore, who are not black metal acts per se, assimilated
the malevolence of black metal into their musical templates, augmenting their
output with sinister, unsettling overtones.

Such is the case with the recordings
of Rope. Stripped of their vocals, Rope's tracks are not unlike the more
abstract side of the post-rock of recent memory. Jazz chords, played in an arpeggiated, post-rock fashion over free jazz percussion, align the band
musically with its Chicago forebears. But once Robers Iwanik's grotesque, hissed
vocals and nightmarishly eerie lyrics are factored into the equation, Heresy,
and then Nothing but Tears
becomes an altogether different beast. What Clock DVA
did with its combination of Sheffield post-punk, avant-garde jazz, and a
predilection for eerily suggestive poetry on the band's musical apotheosis,
Buried Dreams, begs comparison with Rope's new album (the
noir-elevated-to-nightmare of Rope's "Our Beast" even evokes Clock DVA's über-noir
track "Dark Encounter"). Although
strange and genuinely disturbing,

it's a combination that falls nicely into place. If there is indeed beauty in darkness, then
that beauty is manifest on Heresy, and then Nothing but Tears.

Though Rope's debut EP; 2002]
's Fever, was a completely beatless affair,
featuring little more than guitar, bass, and vocals, the band added drummer
Michael J. Kendrick to their ranks for their 2003 long-player Widow's First
. This decision was unquestionably a wise one, as Heresy, and then
Nothing but Tears
is heavily percussion-oriented, featuring some extraordinarily
virtuosic drum work from Kendrick. Kendrick's playing adds considerable depth to
an already dense and atmospheric affair, making it an indispensable addition to
the collection of anyone who likes their music serious.

1. She the Assassin
2. Heresy
3. Blood Stained Lust
4. The Financial Imperative
5. Our Beast
6. This is Love
7. Grand Humiliation of Misery


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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