Sore Eros Second Chants

[SHDWPLY; 2009]

Styles:  nighttime-bedroom-epic-dream-pop-chants
Others: Atlas Sound, Galaxie 500, Woods, The Microphones

When the world demands too much from us, our life-power is threatened and reduced in some way. One cigar-smoking thinker claimed that civilization would always make such demands. Another claimed that only certain forms of social organization do so, and that there are possible ways of organizing the world such that its demands and eros can be reconciled. Regardless of which view we think is correct, very few will deny that the demands of our world fosters some sort of soreness. Given this state of things, some people might allow the world’s demands to drive them into madness or misery. Others, however, perhaps the more heroic among us, might rush off to their bedrooms or basements, turn the room into a very low-budget recording studio, plug in some instruments and half-busted microphones, and lay down a record that offers us a glimpse into another world. It is the latter solution that brings us Second Chants.

A momentarily gazed fuzz brings us into “Smile On Your Face” and is quickly peeled back to reveal the vigorously sorrowful voice that will act as our guide. The sleepwalking vocals and minimal campfire percussion evolve into a mood that, as the drums gradually work their way into the mix, is undoubtedly anthemic. The voice embraces the tension that mounts between itself and the world, suggesting a smile as a solution to the unending hardness of living. This is the form of sublimation exemplified on Second Chants: to positively displace the sadness of the world through celebratory expressiveness. This does not mean that the sorrow has been overcome completely, for it persists throughout the album, but it is constantly being redirected in some new, hopefully beneficial, and always sonically invigorating way.

Walking through Second Chants is like being in one of the better dreams the listener will ever experience. On “Hey, Look at the Sky!” Robinson’s voice delicately hovers over and enchants the rich instrumental landscape as if it’s his voice itself that we’re supposed to be looking up at. “One by One” is drenched in deep reverb fuzz that cloaks what might be a triumphant funeral procession: “One by one we die” is closely followed by “One by one we see love in the world.” On “Before Animals,” Robinson’s sophisticated pop-sensibilities shine bright with melodic vocal flourishes that are almost drowned in a chaotic instrumental, xylophone-led blowout, pushing the stressed speakers to their limits. The side one closer, “The Dream Self,” begins with floating vocals drifting over an almost impenetrable haze that's eventually pulled back to allow for a vast, transparent space. It’s as if the self, struggling with the world at first, finally finds a temporary, but liberatory, moment in the other realm of dreams.

Side two begins underwater, with Robinson’s warbled voice bringing us back from the dream, perhaps to the “before eros sore” place alluded to in “Before Animals.” In a just world, “Lips Like Wine” would be an instant pop classic. The palindromic swirl sounds like people happily dancing, in love, and perhaps still underwater. There are a few moments when the bass drum is too loud for the microphones to handle, and it is in these very magical moments that any lover of under-produced music, and especially any home-recorder, gets instant chills. Even the stranger interludes on the album, like “Landslide Fear,” do not fall off into far-out oblivion, but remain carefully on the edge and always flirting with clever pop harmonies. “Whisper Me” is another stand-out track whose slightly out-of-tune lead guitar line and delicate lyrical confessions bring The Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning” to mind. Kurt Vile’s trumpet on the closing track perfectly captures the absolute triumph of Second Chants, a triumph achieved by celebrating the spaces between the two opposed forces it represents and expressing the natural movement that each force communicates as it moves back into itself.

Several musicians contributed to Second Chants, some of whom are already familiar names. Adam Langelloti plays on all of the tracks, and Gary War, Nick Brannigan, Paul Rosales, Jeff Morkeski, and Vile pop up in various places throughout the album. While all are inseparable from the album’s greatness, Robert Robinson is the songwriting brain behind it all. In the contemporary landscape, one is most tempted to draw a comparison with Deerhunter's Bradford Cox, another home-recorder who has managed to construct marvelous worlds of sound and mood that are equally dark, alive, and pop-conscious while always challenging the limits of pop itself. Sore Eros is still a mysterious force, as Second Chants appears to be the first proper release, but something tells me that Robinson, like Cox, has the potential to be relentlessly, almost dangerously, prolific. The creative power bursting out of Second Chants is surely a sign that this force is not something that can be confined to even a healthy handful of LPs. This is only the beginning, and clearly one of the most impressive beginnings in quite a while.

1. Smile On Your Face
2. In My Heart
3. Hey, Look at the Sky!
4. One By One
5. Before Animals
6. The Dream Self
7. Below It Begins
8. Lips Like Wine
9. Over and Over
10. Landslide Fear
11. Whisper Me
12. Go Back, My Love
13. Tightest Touch

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