Gather and Sing / Without End (dotcontemporary, 2009)
For: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Aarktica, Machinefabriek
Do you remember the first time you heard "Dead Flag Blues" by Godspeed and you nearly lost control of all bodily functions when a disembodied voice rose from sustained guitar tone saying, "the car's on fire and there's no driver at the wheel"?. Or when Jim Caviezel's narration from Terrance Malick's "The Thin Red Line" pierces through the epic breakdown on Explosions in the Sky's "Have You Passed Through This Night"? These chilling moments were so effective because of their conservative usage, they came, delivered, and you never heard anything like them again. Now, imagine listening to an entire album built on this idea of the spoken word punctuating, and in a sense narrating, subtle passages of skeletal post-rock, providing and accumulating meaning to the brooding instrumental segues. That, in essence, is Finneyerkes. Finneyerkes is composed of Matt Finney from Millsboro, Alabama and Randy Yerkes from Virginia (Finneyerkes, get it?). Randy supplies the gorgeous, brooding music that moves fluidly between dual guitar melody driven post-rock to Labradford-inspired ambient passages, that underpin Matt Finney's raspy, southern accented poetry. For being both geographically displaced and coming from completely different backgrounds (Yerkes: music, Finney: literature) the disparate parts of Finneyerkes never compete for space or top billing. Finney's tape recorder clicks on, punctuating (if there is a better word I haven't heard it) Yerekes delicate passages with his perennially somber (and strangely sexual) glimpses into politics, the dark side of human nature, and geographic isolation. Yerkes music is clearly in the drivers seat in these compositions, channeling the melancholy, delicate prettiness, and overall structure for the compositions. Finney provides the details, the overarching themes and story line. He is the navigator, pointing us straight into the southern heart of darkness. If you think that an album full of these seriously serious flashes of spoken word moodiness gets diminishing returns on repeated listens, you are wrong. These relatively short EP's gain meaning on repeated listens, even when you know where and when a line is going to absolutely floor you, destroy your once hopeful optimism, Finney still delivers. Just like "Dead Flag Blues", you know it is coming, but nothing ever prepares you for it.
**Editors note: We usually review albums that came out in 2010, but for something this amazing we backpedalled a little bit. Please download the albums below.