Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Doldrums - Feng Shui

Experimental rock stalwarts led by Bill Kellum, founder of one of the best labels around, VHF (look 'em up and buy everything you can from them). The Doldrums conjure drifting waves of spectral psychedelia, in which even the more aggressive parts sound draped in audio velvet. Pure bliss.

"Doldrums' second full release on VHF resembles its first in that the slightly wiggier side of the group emerges along with the serene, powerful drone compositions -- as can be seen a touch from the start, with "X-Ray Me, Bert" combining both some lovely feedback and a weird, clattering initial rhythm. The same guiding spirit of the band persists as always, exploring generally lengthy songs via instrumental improvisation and occasional vocal work, but not much. A slight variation in approach comes via the structuring of the album's two longest tracks, "Left in an Airport Gift Shop" and "Ascending Copper Mountain." The songs are mastered and listed in the liner notes as three separate pieces each, blended together as one long affair. "Left in an Airport Gift Shop" starts with a shorter, more typical performance before sliding into the second part, a stripped-down affair with softly plucked and strummed guitar and varying percussion chimes and drums. The final part, the lengthiest, hits a steady trance groove initially, then turns into a great, extended run of processed, shimmering guitar before returning to the beat in a truly epic if still calm mode. It's fantastic, probably the band's best individual moment to date. "Ascending Copper Mountain" picks up exactly where that ends, with soft vocals adding to the bright, surging flow of the music, a lovely rise up and up, living up to the song's name. The first part then slowly evolves into a martial drum-tinged drone-and-float, turning into the similarly ambient second section before concluding with a final extended combination of haunting tones and shimmers over a vast depth. Pretentious? Not when presented so well -- and besides, how can anyone label a group pretentious when it has a song to wrap things up called "Come Back, Lao Tzu"?- N. Raggett