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Deep Politics

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Album Review

Grails began as a post-rock unit that delivered moments of absolute beauty inside blown out; heavy rock power plays. On 2008's Doomsdayer's Holiday, the quartet began to reply more on post-production — ambient textures, lush overdubs, understated samples, and washed-out backdrops — to expand their reach. On Deep Politics, it's an inseparable element in their sound. While their music always held cinematic elements, here Grails reflect the influences of Ennio Morricone, Hugo Montenegro, Piero Piccioni, Alan Hawkshaw, Basil Kirchen, and others in creating 21st century library music. Moogs, mellotrons, strings, and chorales are indelibly woven with their meld of big guitars and percussion; yet Grails sound even heavier. Their sonic density is maximal. A low-tuned guitar riff in "Future Primitive" is layered with numerous forceful strings (played and arranged by composer Tim Harris), droning backing vocals, and well-placed percussion, to open the set darkly and powerfully. "All the Colors of the Dark," with its dissonant contrapuntal piano, echo-laden slide guitars, snares, and kick drums, are multiplied exponentially by strings and an enormous choir that signals a dramatic moment, but then quickly drops out as a nylon-string guitar plays a moody melody backed by harmonic piano chords; they're subsumed by sitar and reverb in the conclusion. The swirling string textures on "Daughters of Bilitis" suggest Francis Lai and Montenegro; they create a love theme drenched in dread. "Almost Grew My Hair" engages both electric and acoustic 12-strings in gorgeous interplay before stretching to the breaking point of abstraction as clipped choral voices, echo chambers, and spatial effects consume them while re-centering another melody. "I Led Three Lives" is the closest thing here to the Grails' famed Black Tar Prophecies EPs, with its sprawling psychedelic heaviness and rolling tom-toms, but it too is enhanced by King Crimson-like Mellotrons. "Deep Snow" begins with an acoustic and electric slide engaging in terse interplay before the full band kicks in with a knotty, metallic thud: drums, throbbing basslines, multiple strings, and feedback transform it with knotty tension before they drop away one at a time, coming out on the other side as a sparse, dreamy Eastern melody. On Deep Politics, Grails sound more like themselves than ever, while taking their music to an entirely new level.


Formed: 1999 in Portland, OR

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Instrumental rock band Grails began in Portland, Oregon in 1999 as a bedroom project never meant for the stage. Initially consisting of Alex J. Hall and Paul Spitz on guitar, Emil Amos (also of Holy Sons) on drums and guitar, Timothy Horner on violin, and William Slater on bass and keyboards, the group first used the moniker Laurel Canyon while venturing out live on a dare and producing two EPs of recorded material. By the time they had stirred up interest and landed a deal with Neurot Records, they...
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Deep Politics, Grails
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