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Fires In Distant Buildings

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Album Review

On Fires in Distant Buildings, Gravenhurst flesh out their starkly lovely fusion of British folk, dream pop, and electronica with full-fledged drums, electric guitars, and even denser electronic atmospheres. Though this is something of a departure from Gravenhurst's earlier work, it's not such a huge change from Nick Talbot's general modus operandi: his '90s band, Assembly Communications, worked with similarly hazy textures, and the shoegaze/post-rock elements on display here recall influences (and fellow Bristol-based acts) like Flying Saucer Attack and its offshoot, Movietone. Though Fires in Distant Buildings' sonics are more expansive, the overall feel and striking songwriting are just as haunting as they were on Gravenhurst's earlier work. The band's namesake — an eerie imaginary world that Talbot created and is inspired by — is still populated by "murdering f*ckheads," but if works like Black Holes in the Sand and Flashlight Seasons chronicled its countryside, then Fires in Distant Buildings soundtracks its cities. "Down River"'s electronic percussion and lashings of distorted guitar evoke a big yet claustrophobic urban landscape, while "The Velvet Cell Reprise" expands on the feeling of racing through city streets in the dead of night. "The Velvet Cell" itself turns Gravenhurst's usual murder ballads into a murder mystery: over spiky electric guitars and a Krautrock-inspired motorik beat, Talbot sings, "To understand the killer/I must become the killer." The nine-minute, album-closing cover of the Kinks' "See My Friends" is also steeped in paranoia, alternating quiet, droning passages with cathartic squalls of noise. A handful of Fires in Distant Buildings' songs recall the largely acoustic Gravenhurst sound, such as the gorgeous, Low-esque "Nicole" and "Cities Under the Sea," which is full of thoughtful, detailed lyrics like "the magic of stones when taken back home is left on the beach." Above all, the band's music possesses a rare kind of beauty, and Fires in Distant Buildings shows that Gravenhurst can preserve that beauty even as they experiment with their sound.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Making music equally inspired by the British folk of Fairport Convention and Bert Jansch and the volatile, textural rock of My Bloody Valentine, Gravenhurst was the brainchild of singer/multi-instrumentalist Nick Talbot. In the mid-'90s, Talbot was so taken with the dream pop movement that he moved to Bristol, home to some of the style's most visionary bands, including Third Eye Foundation and Flying Saucer Attack. His own band, Assembly Communications, mined a similarly experimental, ethereal vein...
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Fires In Distant Buildings, Gravenhurst
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