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Apocalyptic Blues

Wrekmeister Harmonies – Light Falls Review

Considering Wrekmeister Harmonies is a collective, one would assume that their releases would end up being quite sparse. However, that has not been the case for the main man of the collective, JR Robinson, as he makes the presence of Wrekmeister Harmonies felt year in, year out. Since You’ve Always Meant So Much to Me, the collective is releasing a record per annum, leading to last year’s excellent Night of Your Ascension. The record was the pinnacle of Robinson’s path, relentless and eternal, encompassing all the mysticism, off-kilter approach and extreme leanings of the band. Drone, neo-classical, doom, sludge, noise, everything found its place in this feverish vision of ecstasy.

How one follows a record such as Night of Your Ascension is the big question here. And when Light Falls was announced, it felt slightly worrying that Robinson wanted to move forward in such haste. The answer to this trivial question is to tackle the next record with a more focused, smaller band of musicians. In the past, artists such as Marissa Nadler, The Body (the whole band), Jef Whitehead (Leviathan), Sanford Parker, Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), David Yow (The Jesus Lizard), Mark Solotroff (Anatomy of Habit), Alexander Hacke (Einsturzende Neubaten), jazz composer Ken Vandermark and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, have all participated in the collective, but Light Falls finds Wrekmeister Harmonies in a more conventional “band” setting. JR Robinson of course returns, as does Eshter Shaw, and incredibly enough, they are joined by three Godspeed You! Black Emperor members in Thierry Amar, Sophie Trudeau and Timothy Herzog, featuring also guest appearances by singer-songwriter Ryley Walker and Cooper Crain (Cave, Bitchin Bajas).

The collective might be smaller, but it is equally effective, while JR Robinson still ventures into the true darkness of mankind. Even though Robinson’s focus does not navigate the mind and psyche of a disturbed figure as he did with Don Carlo Gesualdo and John Geoghan (in Night of Your Ascension) or Bobby Beausoleil (in Then It All Came Down), he rather approaches inhumanity as a concept through the works of towering writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi. In addition to this, Robinson also offers a personal perspective in parts of this album, and especially “Where Have You Been My Lovely Son?” addressing his relationship, and the loss of said relationship, with his own son.

Robinson and the collective feed off from these concepts, and whenever that is the case, the music that follows is always high quality. Starting from an excellent setting, the first aspect that grabs your attention is the ability of the collective to conjure a dark ambiance. With a constant apocalyptic tone, Wrekmeister Harmonies navigate through minimal and pessimistic tones, to acoustic clean parts, from soothing, tender moments, to brutal solitary instances, even going as far as experimental, acoustic-based projects, such as Harvestman and Blood & Time. The members of GY!BE add their own, unique tone to the album, influencing greatly the soundscapes and progression of the album, while the clear and powerful neo-classical leaning, in moments such as “The Gathering,” and the psychedelic lure, placing the listener amidst a mysterious haze, reveal the multi-facade of Wrekmeister Harmonies, and the collective’s ability to transform.

As to compliment their more ambient and mystical side, Wrekmeister Harmonies also reveal their ugliest of faces, something that in the past Chip King and Lee Buford of The Body had been largely responsible for (no one can forget the nihilistic doom/sludge parts from Night of Your Ascension). In drone forms, as in “Light Falls II – The Light Burns Us All” or the anguishing outbreak of “Some Were Saved Some Drowned” this doom mentality overflows, also revealing a slight hint of a stoner haze, just enough to get this dystopian, desert-like quality to add to the solitary tone of the record.

Light Falls follows the tradition of Wrekmeister Harmonies’ vision. Deeply mystical and ritualistic, with a procession-like exploration, Robinson and co-conspirators venture forth into the darkness once more. Even though the scope of this work is not as broad as it was for Night of Your Ascension, the quality is still high, the music still dark and the vision as inspired as it ever was for Robinson.

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Written By

Sound engineer, sonic manipulator, record hunter and writer/contributor for a variety of webzines.

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