Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Story of Rats - Thought Forms [Eiderdown]

Eiderdown Records debuted, this, its first LP last year and did a damn fine job at that. The label was started by Adam Svenson (who plays in Dull Knife, Little Claw and solo as Karnak Temples)--who previously ran a tape label out of Iowa City in the 90s called Squirrel Energy Now! which put out cassettes by Charlie McAlister among others--in order to realize his lifelong dream of putting out vinyl records. The LP is a perfect encapsulation of the "heavy mellow" sound that Svenson and Garek Druss a.k.a. A Story of Rats have been peddling around Seattle for several years now.
If you thought Svenson was active, take a gander at Druss's resume. He's played in Dull Knife, Ear Venom, Tecumseh, Pussygutt, Wolvserpent, Du Hexen Hase, This Blinding Light and another band with Teeth in the name that escapes me now (Heavy Teeth?) And those are just the ones off the top of my head. Dude gets around. But a constant through all those is Druss's A Story of Rats project which typically captures the sounds of him playing in his psychedelic teepee all by himself. On this, A Story of Rats's vinyl debut, Druss gets by with a little help from friends handling voice, electronics, synthesizers and bass himself with additional help on voice, guitar and auxiliary synth between the two sides.
Thought Forms features two sidelong pieces, unsurprisingly, one titled "Thought" and the other "Forms." And the two titles actually mean something too. The highly minimalist endeavor of "Thought" indeed sounds like a cavernous cranial cavity. The piece is a series of abstract gestures happening in a dank existence. It's amorphous but present; its emptiness is vast and dense. The flickering of lights in a deep, dark place. Yet, it doesn't feel oppressive, only barren; the void on wax. You're hearing more than you probably realize.
While "Thought" is practically a work of anti-form, true to its name, "Forms" is just the opposite. Without departing the atmosphere birthed so thoroughly on the previous side, Druss establishes an absolutely wonderful if often subtle keyboard melody that moves through the piece, revealing itself at different depths. Density continues, but "Forms's" foundation is based upon mythic beauty rather than the big empty. The elements are somewhat discernible: voices ring with hollow tones, modest invocations of guitar and electronics are all around you if you listen. The hypnotic keyboard melody is the center of the universe. You could break down each sound but why undermine this smoked-out world that Druss creates. This is the ascendence to heaven from the purgatory of the first side. Fantastically engaging, terribly mysterious but never completely outside the realm of danger.
"Thought" sets the mood, but it's "Forms" that seals the deal.
The record looks awesome, featuring black and gold screenprinting on the covers and insert of Druss's "pen/paper" work. The vinyl itself is this smokey, bluish marble grey color and looks top of the line. Svenson pulled no punches on his first outing, and with a pair of sweet-looking tapes just released, he's showing no signs of slowing either. Drone hounds take note. The LP can be nabbed from Eiderdown or here

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