Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: Rain Drinkers - Urthen Web (Brave Mysteries, 2011)

Rain Drinkers is a semi-mysterious duo of Wisconsin’s Joe Taylor and Zavier Krall (which turns to be an alias of Troy Schafer), who like to settle for monumental, folkified ambient in their work. Always appearing in a different scenery, dressed in old-school clothes, the duo bring the sort of intimacy alien to most psychedelic projects in the tape scene; the cover of Urthen Web sees the two people dressed in plain winter jackets and wearing hats (containing feathers), overlooking a vast, frozen winter landscape. The music on the landscape reflects this mood.
The opening “Strange Tapestry” creates an ominous, mournful vibe with a bassy drone and dead man style bluesy desert guitar passage in the style of Barn Owl. The funeralistic atmosphere is further developed with dual trumpets, which play hymns for the dead cowboys somewhere in the desert between the US and Mexico. The track then delves into a more ritualistic/pagan territory with fierce tribal drumming set to first an acoustic guitar and later to a series of undulating and relaxing electric organ drones (Hammond? Rhodes?) very much in the style of Popol Vuh’s In den Gärten Pharaos. The sound is deeply spiritual and almost New Age-like in style and the comparison of the two Wisconsinites to the work of the German master of atmospheres is more than apt.
The flipside’s “In the Central Loom”, like the previous track, begins with a bassy, cavernous drone, like thunder clouds rolling over a plain. A distant, faint sound of a flute emerges, calling the lost wanderers to the nearest village to find the shelter from the rain and the night. A simple, ululating electric organ melody plays while the wordless choir shapes the walls of the cave, bringing even more Barn Owl to mind. The scattered field recordings and a spacious acoustic guitar add the ritualistic feel to the music, conjuring dreams of might and unknown ancestors and the wildlife so rich before the white man came. The following string suite is a sort of a conclusion, a mourning soundtrack to the death of a million buffalos, who were once roaming the great plains and whose skulls create artificial mountains along the first transcontinental railroads.
Once again, the Brave Mysteries cassette label proves to be one of the masters of atmospheric music, releasing incredibly atmospheric and intricate music by projects like Burial Hex, Kinit Her, or Rain Drinkers. The cassette is stunning in its cinematic power, as if it was trying to be an alternative soundtrack to a Western movie revolving around the plight of Native American under the new white rule or the rituals of Native Americans before the whites came. Aesthetically, Rain Drinkers’ Urthen Web can be placed in the same area as Ajilvsga or Barn Owl, but musically it’s much more – more ornamented, eclectic and evocative. Highly recommended.

The tape's available at Brave Mysteries shop. GRAB IT!!!

Correction: I've made a mistake - Troy Schafer has nothing to do with the Lighten Up Sounds label.

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