Crone, a name often given to a woman who possesses some form of magic or wizardry, also finds itself the calling card of former Isis bassist Jeff Caxide’s new solo project. There’s certain symmetry to that since the new Crone release Endless Midnight is a magical record. I don’t say that to be pretentious, I say it as a statement of fact. Endless Midnight creates textures and soundscapes that are so lush they sound, for lack of a better term, magical. These instrumental passages have the ability to lift you out of yourself and carry you away. It’s an audio dream state, a place where your imagination can take over. So many bands dictate the terms of how you appreciate them. Crone doesn’t, it surrounds you with the sounds it wants and allows you to figure out what the record is to you.
Jeff Caxide has always been an important figure in music. During his time in Isis, Caxide wasn’t just the bassist he was a major part of their sound. Taking lessons from that, Caxide steps into a leadership role with Crone. He composes, orchestrates and builds ethereal structures that seem to really be alive. These aren’t songs; these are musical movements, something more akin to classical music than metal. Endless Midnight opens with “What You Dream Of”, an eleven-minute journey into an aching nothingness that consumes you. Caxide is a master of minimalism. He can take the smallest part of the keyboards or strings and layer it over itself without getting boring. He understands that part of what makes this music special are the notes and how they interact with each other.
“Ghost City” is the most haunting song on the album. It feels like the theme to a lost civilization, that scene in the movie where the camera pans through the empty streets and the survivors contemplate the destruction. Caxide blends samples of what sound like talk radio blurbs into this sea of tranquil harmonies. As the tension of the moving keyboards and the voice come together, Caxide releases a single strumming guitar line. It’s dissonant and perfect, the way Thelonious Monk uses his piano, Caxide uses the guitar. Then the song slowly fades out and these sounds separate themselves. “The Silver Hammer” is my favorite track. It’s a simple manipulation of various tones that come across like whale song, evolving into something epic and celebratory. This song feels like you’re beneath the ocean in the darkest part of the night, but you’re safe and just enjoying the majesty around you. Yeah I might sound like a pretentious fop but it’s the truth. Jeff Caxide is making emotional music here, music that nourishes the soul.
The title track also pushes these buttons. It literally sounds like the hour just before dawn. If you can stretch your mind out and try to imagine what it would sound like as the sun slowly rises and casts it’s warm light across silent darkness, then you’ll understand “Endless Midnight”. I love that Endless Midnight is a headphones album. Nobody does that anymore, nobody makes a record that you can sit and listen to with headphones on, eyes closed, and just sink into the sound. This is the audio equivalent of being on good hallucinogens, ones that just present you with a good trip, a trip without fear or reservation.
Caxide was smart on Endless Midnight by welcoming help from old friends. Former Isis band mate Aaron Harris plays on the album as does Cliff Meyer (Isis/Red Sparrows) and John LaMaccia (Candiria). Isis frontman Aaron Turner also lends a hand with some beautiful artwork. With all of these additions, Crone is still all Caxide and Endless Midnight is his statement. The record has secured a space on my ten albums of the year list and may take out Battles, Iwrestledabearonce and a few choice others for the top spot. It’s albums like this that give me faith in music again.
CRAVEONLINE RATING 9.5 OUT OF 10
Review of The Atlas Moth on Page 2…
The Atlas Moth
An Ache For The Distance
Moving on to something a little more metal in nature, I give you An Ache For The Distance, the new guitar layered presentation from Chicago based post-metal outfit The Atlas Moth. This is a hybrid sound of bluesy rock as put through a grinder of sludge and doom metal. An Ache For The Distance is a constant slight of hand when it comes to genre specification. They’re slow, but with enough mid-tempo to not be straight doom, they’re sludgy but with enough clarity and high end to not be completely sludge. The blues influence is there but with enough of a metal affectation to not be a blues band. Sprinkle that with a switch between growling vocals and the more haunting clean ones and The Atlas Moth cook up an interesting little recipe.
This is guitar music. An Ache For The Distance is a guitar driven album but not in the standard metal way. Instead of bashing you over the head with a thousand riffs, The Atlas Moth is all about layering. It’s as if Billy Corgan decided to produce a metal band. I don’t say that because Atlas Moth sounds at all like Smashing Pumpkins, but more because they love to layer the guitars in the same way. The band boasts three guitarists, plus a keyboardist that is more about creating another layer than any kind of Goth metal keyboard performance. Again, like Crone, The Atlas Moth has a real ocean vibe to the way they play. Instead of the slow and quiet sea at night, this stuff is that wave that crashes over you, which is both refreshing and a little unsettling.
“Coffin Varnish” opens An Ache For The Distance and immediately sets the tone. One guitar lays the platform that allows the other two to dance around it. One guitar with a more pummeling riff, the other pushing more single notes. “Perpetual Generations” has a straight-ahead rock jam feel to it where all three guitars are there to thicken the sound. It’s here the band debuts the melancholy clean vocals and punch them up with some growling and screeching. From there An Ache For The Distance is pretty straight forward, using that layering technique to create crashing waves of sound that are occasionally disrupted by a blues riff here and there. The Atlas Moth work their best when they allow themselves room for the songs to grow. The shorter tunes don’t have the same effect, especially “Courage”, which feels like an afterthought. It’s not a bad tune; it just doesn’t fit with the rest of what An Ache For The Distance is doing.
I write a lot about the intangible, that certain something that allows one band to do the same thing as a thousand other bands but still rise above it all. The force of the intangible is what keeps us all coming back to music and it’s part of what drives me to write about it. I want to investigate it, to learn about it and be able to explain it. However you define that intangible thing, The Atlas Moth just doesn’t have it. The music they make is great, their ability is without question and I thoroughly enjoyed An Ache For The Distance, but it never rises above other bands that do the same thing. The record never touched me with the intangible so it never came together as a whole. Without that cohesive idea, An Ache For The Distance begins to get boring and by the end, even though I really dug the entire musical goings on, I knew I’d never put the record on again. There’s nothing specifically wrong with what The Atlas Moth are doing, it just never becomes more than the sum of it’s parts.
CRAVEONLINE RATING 6.5 out of 10