Grails' Burning Off Impurities
Curb Your Cynicism is a recurring blogtastic feature in which the music editor pithily enthuses about new releases and reissues he thinks will enhance your life and erode your cynicism about the state of music, circa now.
Burning Off Impurities
Release date: May 1, 2007
Portland quartet Grails reward your patience. Their singerless songs gradually unspool at a stately pace, conjuring exotic vistas that you won't see in tourism brochures, but rather in the hallucinogen-enhanced expressions of seers and psychonauts. Burning Off Impurities, the band's fourth album, is a supremely spacious record, subtly spiced with tamboura drones and string instruments that force you to hit Wikipedia to learn about their origins. The album's steered by one of underground rock's most inventive drummers, Emil Amos (he kept time, in a manner of speaking, for Jandek on the cult legend's last U.S. tour).
On Impurities, Grails tap into a mystical, majestic, psychedelic vein that alludes to the work of Germany's Popol Vuh and Agitation Free, Turkey's Edip Akbayram and Erkin Koray, and America's Scenic. Which is not to imply that Grails are merely replicating their awesome record collection. Rather, these influences are worn lightly and dashingly, and then whipped into a flavorful elixir of off-the-beaten-path soul massage, disguised as soundtrack music for that imaginary sequel to Alejandro Jodorowsky's desert-noir classic, El Topo. (You know music is special when it forces you to mix metaphors this ridiculously.)
Lest you think Impurities is all ethnodelic mellowness that you'll want to play at your next opium-den-themed party, "Origin-ing" provides some storm-the-temple, Morricone-meets-Cul De Sac tension and coruscating crescendoing. And if you can't accommodate some coruscating crescendoing in your life, then I truly pity you.
Impurities is a spiritual travelogue in sound played with nobility, finesse, and zeal by humble dudes from the Pacific Northwest. It is a rare thing to hear in 2007 and I applaud Grails' audacity to create something so out of step with our compressed-to-hell-MP3ed, puny-attention-spanned zeitgeist.