Belong – Common Era (Kranky)
Back in 2006 the duo of Turk Dietrich and Michael Jones otherwise known as Belong released the beautiful drifting October Language. It was a dark heavy maze of gauzy guitar static and throbbing base tones. It was an ambient guitar suite of the highest order. Between October Language and Common Era they issued the Colorloss EP in 2008 since then things have been silent. The Colorloss EP can be seen as the bridge between the swirling noise of the first record and warped shoegaze of Common Era. It’s cracked cover versions pointing towards a broader interpretation of the notion of the song.
Common Era takes the fractured elements of October Language whirlpool of guitar haze and expands upon it with the use of drums and vocals. This shift in the bands sonic template has provoked something of a backlash in the blogosphere. Reading some of the reaction you would think that they have released a pure pop record in the vein of Lady Ga Ga or heaven forbid The Killers. The reality is somewhat different.
Opener Come See is anchored by a snare drum and guitar buzz that is equal part The Velvet Underground and My Bloody Valentine. The vocals are mixed so low that they become another element in the soundscape rather than the focus of the track. A Walk sounds like The Cure circa 17 Seconds heard through an underwater dream. Dark pop hues, muddy, smudged by reverb and dislocated guitars. The dry bassline on Prefect Life locks in with the insidious drum pattern and floating vocal lines as they float over the washes of guitar noise and blissed out hum. Keep Still is close to the sound world that Belong so brilliantly realised on Music Language. The heavily treated guitars provide waves of sound that melt into each other like hot lava meeting water. They crackle, drizzle, spilit apart and reform in different shapes.
The music on Common Era seems to slip through the gaps, spin in the spaces, collapse back into itself. The broken rhythms of the closing Very Careful, the cheap drum machine low in the mix, sounds like 80’s synth pop decaying in endless space. Attempting to capture the essence of Common Era is like trying to engrave smoke. Just clasp the headphones on and listen to the bliss.
Tony Heywood ©