Wednesday, May 13, 2009

review- the warlocks- 'the mirror explodes'

for some reason i am on teepee records list as a journalist so they have been sending me emails with full downloads of their upcoming releases- including the new warlocks album which i couldn't resist downloading. since that is the case i wrote a 200-word review that i sent to skyscraper magazine for their consideration and i'll post it here as well. i'll probably continue doing this for as long as they are sending me records. they sent me the new spindrift as well- so i'll write a review for that one once i familiarize myself more with their work. this one was a no-brainer though because i have everything the warlocks have done.

The Warlocks
The Mirror Explodes

The Warlocks have become a parallel being to Mogwai in the sense that they were easy to write off early on as being a sure-fire one-trick pony but instead have gone on to release a string of impressively distinctive albums. "The Mirror Explodes" is no exception. Musically it mixes the gritty "couldn't-give-a-fuck-what-you-think" appeal of "Heavy Deavy Skull Lover" with the overly polished and eager to please "Surgery." The mood swings throughout the course of the album from their patented sense of foreboding ("Red Camera," "You Make Me Wait") to some impressively sunny, almost upbeat mood-pieces ("Midnight Sun," closer "Static Eyes"). The production is very balanced- while the overall tone is generally very clean the distortion still cooks the way it should and the low-end is nice and prominent. The arrangements leave a lot of space for the rhythm section to breathe. This record sounds particularly fantastic coming through car stereo speakers- it's a rumbler. One thing it doesn't offer much of is vocal hooks- there certainly aren't any on par with something like "The Dope Feels Good" from "The Phoenix Album." "There is a Formula to Your Despair" comes closest with it's mantra "everyone feels this way." It also features singer/guitarist/songwriter Bobby Hecksher's most melodic and well-developed vocal performance- he sounds in control and assured. Otherwise, most of the hooks come from the beautifully realized and understated guitar lines that have become the Warlocks' specialty (a good example of this is the fantastic riff that drives "Standing Between the Lovers of Hell"). "Slowly Disappearing" is an impressive exercise in minimalism for a band that has three guitarists and has had previous incarnations as an octet- the guitars are a thick, formless mass of feedback and distorted drones never moving from a single chord, the vocals are buried in the mix and drenched in reverb- they are almost used purely for a textural effect basically leaving the semblance of a melodic structure to the bass which is locked in with the timpani-like use of the drums. The song is driven forward by nothing but a maraca. Hypnotic is a bit of an understatement- it wouldn't be out of the question to say that the band could make good use of this song as an extended set-ending jam which would render an encore worthless. Another charming feature of the album is it's incredibly compact structure and running time- it's over in under 45 minutes and leaves you wanting more. By the time "Static Eyes" fades out you're left with a similar feeling to a fleeting dream- it's gone before you can even make most of it out but it leaves quite an impression.- Tyler Ritter

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