Grandeur of Hair
he Goslings make music like bruises; it pools beneath the skin, only reaching true intensity after it's been there a little while. And if you keep hitting it before they fade away, you could do some real damage. I always want to use the word “coruscating” for their music, but while it gives off sparks, they're not the kind that coruscating usually brings to mind. These are dirty, sullen glimmers thrown up one-by-one by dull metal scraped against stone, grudgingly giving off flecks of light.
What makes them fairly unique among noise/sludge/drone rockers is the careful line they walk; “rockers” actually applies to them, unlike so many of their more extreme peers, because even at their heaviest (such as the absolutely crushing “Croatan”) there are still riffs and verses and maybe even the odd refrain lurking in the back. They never play fast, so you can't head-bang, but it says something that the temptation is there.
Slathered thickly over all that is a constant, living space of static and growl that turns the Goslings' music into something more bracing than rock can usually manage. For a band that one could easily dismiss as having shitty production, Max Soren and Freddie Freeman have done a fantastic job of giving the lo-fi soupy mess real depth and range without ever dialing the noise back (This is something that doesn't sound all that impressive until you hear it put into practice on a track like “Golden Stair,” which is basically a series of explosions.)
Usually just a duo, Max (guitar) and Leslie Soren (vocals) have invited some friends along this time, mostly a variety on drums so that these sheets of noise have death knells to flail against. You'd be hard-pressed to say that Grandeur of Hair sounds more polished than the masterful Between the Dead, though, except in terms of how skillfully sculpted and aimed its distortions are. In some ways it's more impressive: the steady tape hiss of interlude “Windowpane” is more compelling than the similar gesture of “Yellow Sky,” new epics “Overnight” and “Haruspex” rise and fall like sudden cliffs instead of the tidal wave that was “Crow for Day,” and they've never quite done anything like the closing (and relatively concise) “Dinah.” Throughout, however, the Goslings are still clearly chasing the same bloody muse as always, gloria in extremis deo.
The sheer volume and intensity of what this band does, if you're listening properly, can change the way you relate to the world as you hear it. To quote a friend who I introduced to the Goslings, “I was deafened but renewed, a slate wiped of all thoughts and worries.” There's something about the pulverizing force of this music that is cleansing as well as thrilling; like the Greek tragedy Aristotle dissected in the Poetics, the Goslings exist not so much for entertainment as for purgation. This is a small but significant advance on their past work, and one that's easier to obtain; anyone interested in the redemptive and transformative qualities of noise should consider this a clarion call, in more ways than one.