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An Ocean Without Water

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Album Review

The continuing impact of epic-scaled, reflectively cinematic metal with roots in everything from Morricone to Neurosis continues apace with Souvenir's Young America's second album, An Ocean Without Water. A trio but with notable guest performers, especially Noah Saval's often quite remarkable additions on harmonica, Souvenir's Young America position themselves between lava-thick overload and spare, to-the-point performances — guitarist Ken Rayher openly shows a love of Dylan Carlson's work in Earth on the latter point in particular, aiming to suggest stark power as much as brutally demonstrate it. The six pieces that make up An Ocean Without Water similarly seek a careful middle ground — ranging between six to eight minutes in general, they balance economy with experimentation; opening track "Mars Ascendent" alone has enough tempo shifts and changes in mood to suggest a hoary prog track three times its length (and lives up to the title with its final triumphant if glowering section). "The Sheltering Sky" acts as a good calling card for the whole album, with the trio's tight, stark groove at the start, led by Graham Scala's drumming, suddenly turning into a guitar-and-cello (cello courtesy of Chris Carroll) reflective progression before again swiftly shifting to a brawling, majestic midsection that should be scoring the world's last sunset. The overt "Western" elements in the music suggest a wide number of antecedents, from Bill Laswell's late-'80s solo work to acts like A Small Good Thing and some of Steve Roach's collaborations, with the cascading delay of Rayher's solo at the conclusion of their reinterpretation of the classic "Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)" simultaneously suggesting old deserts under wide open skies and a post-shoegaze zone at its most astringent.

An Ocean Without Water, Souvenir's Young America
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