Both the Robedoor and Pocahaunted crews have been making a name for themselves this year, especially when in tandem it seems. They opened for Sonic Youth in collaborative live form pretty recently, and their first shot at a collabo release, Mouth of Prayer, was reissued by Blackest Rainbow only mere months after it came out in the first place. This double disc split/collab slab, courtesy of Digitalis, is the next piece in the ever expanding RBDR+Phaunt puzzle.
The excellently titled, Hunted Gathering starts off with Robedoor in classic dread drone mode. There is sloshed vocal murk a plenty, but what Robedoor has always been killer at is the way they incorporate rather typical instruments into their palette of scuzz and hum. This track, “Plague of Settlers”, has an organ of some sort, bass, a drum kit perhaps a guitar, all mingling and forming into a heavy monolith exploding underneath the Earth’s surface. Pocahaunted follows with “Roman Nose”, beginning in typical Phaunt fashion, two guitar chords cycling back and forth and female vocal séance. In addition, the girls are joined by subtle drumming (I’m assuming by Goliath Bird Eater’s Bobb Bruno) and I’m pretty sure I hear a male voice in there too but don’t quote me. It’s a nice unified procession, almost to a fault, but vocal “solos” towards the end help break the sameness up a bit. Another Pocahaunted track, “Crow Scout” follows but it doesn’t quite do it for me. The central melody and arrangement doesn’t gel well enough to sustain the piece across its almost 14 minutes. There are some of those classic, sublime Pocahaunted vocal moves in it though. My ears like that. Robedoor gets back on the mic and closes out the first disc with “Spectral Outpost”. It’s a long, gradually winding piece, like riding a rollercoaster in slow motion, in the dark. Except instead of being filled by excitedness, like you would be on a rollercoaster in regular motion, you’re filled with utter creepedoutness. This is real digging-up-bodies-on-an-ancient-Indian-burial-ground shit, total looming doom. Give it a few minutes and you’ll be under its spell, marching hypnotized into oblivion just as I am.
Robedoor opens up the second disc as well. But out of left field, it’s a pretty serene piece called “Ancestress Moon”. And it’s the only track length on the album that doesn’t make it to double figures. It doesn’t go anywhere particular but it doesn’t really have to, it’s a nice comedown after “Spectral Outpost” AND it’s a great lead in to the final solo Pocahaunted track “Warmest Knives”. “Warmest Knives” starts out almost identically as “Roman Nose”, but soon enough it morphs into a rather lush echoing piece. The mysterious Laena (whose violinwork was the standout on the Phaunts’ Rough Magic tape) makes a much welcomed appearance here. Her violin isn’t front and center, but it comes in at all the right places. This may be the foggiest Pocahaunted has ever sounded and it suits them well. The track still feels a bit long, but the fine use of dynamics by all parties involved excuses that. “Razed Terrain”, Robedoor’s final bout, is a decent enough though repetitive vocal-dominated affair, that can't quite compare to their excellent cuts on the first disc. Though I do dig the cymbal smashing towards the end. The grand finale, the collaborative title track, is a very disembodied sounding piece. The Pocahaunted element is prominently on display while the Robedoor faction snakes around in poisonous mists. Towards the end of the track the intensity has increased a bit but it doesn’t sound too much different from when it started. It feels more like a Pocahaunted piece with Robedoor sitting in rather than a full on meeting of the minds, though maybe it’s just me.
While I wouldn’t call Hunted Gathering either group’s best work, it’s still a good showing (especially for Robedoor) and unlike the rest of the groups’ other work, it’s still available. All in all, the whole thing is a classy, well put together project by Digitalis. The sound is crisp thanks to Bobb Bruno and Pete Swanson, on recording & mixing and mastering duties, respectively. The sweet collage plastered all over this thing is by Manda and Bethany of Pocahaunted (also Roy Tatum of Buried Valley is credited to layout, as well as additional instruments) and it’s just totally fun to look at, especially the inside. So if you’ve yet to hear either subject of this review, I suggest you pick this up. It’s definitely the best bang for your buck. And if yr a fan of either group, well, you already know what to do.