Minor Singing

Nattavaara Rocks
Ox Choral
SWEDEN SEISMIC WAVES Seismic001 (2015)

This appears to be a download only release, although I could be wrong. The download code comes with a full colour professionally printed A5 pamphlet. I would say: if you are going to release something as a download only, why not produce a cool physical product like the box containing a relevant and crucial art poster like with Diatribes’ Augustus? Here we have a textless (apart from the tracklisting on the end page), full-colour brochure full of uninspired and artless photography of a beech wood with one lonely shot of a maple sapling to ease the monotony. Natavaara Rocks’ beatific likeness graces the cover, if indeed that is him and not some random hipster pulled off the street.

Anyway. Having downloaded the whole album via Naatavaara Rocks’ Bandcamp page in a .zip file, it becomes apparent that Ox Choral is eight pieces of music (I chose .wav files but you could also have .mp3, .flac or other options), a cover image, instructions for accessing some videos from the web and the entire mediocre booklet design again, this time as a .pdf. I also have the press release in my hand and it says Ox Choral is “…arranged to be perceived as more close-sounding, defined and direct”, and calls itself “guitar-based ambient/folk/drone”. To me it sounds like a pretty faithful addition to what multifarious bands working under that nebulous term “post-rock” have been doing for the last twenty years. In that time, “post-rock” has become a genre appellation in its own right, rather than just an ideological concept. See Jack Chuter’s excellent book Storm Static Sleep if you’re interested in the loud/quiet dynamic.

Twangy reverbed guitars, string synths and digital mellotrons cycle endlessly, boring into your psyche on ‘Blind Kites Circling’, in a kind of pseudo-Spagetti-Western approximation of post-rock. ‘Light Pillars’ ends with mildly Robert Fripp-style glissando guitars over a chimed bell loop mixed with some “atmospheres” poached from a Korg Trinity preset or similar to arrive at something not a million miles away from David Sylvian’s Alchemy – An Index of Possibilities. ‘Forest Hollows’ seems derived from acoustic guitar and autoharp sources, while ‘A Rite Of Passage’ mixes colossal drums with mellotron and flutes and string synths struggling to remain in tune. More guitar cliffhanging. A theme is presented, repeated, with little development and then ends in a flurry of expensive reverb.

So far it seems to me all these tunes are far too short. ‘Monoliths’ is only a smidge under 3 and a half minutes, but still manages to be monolithic in spite of this. ‘Minor Singing’ is very brief at 1:36 and I swear I can hear the Japan influence in there again. ‘As Their Bodies Slowly Sank’ has a clanking loop, while bubbling fairground organs rise out of murky waters of throaty guitar. ‘Water Graves’ church organ provides an appropriate ending. The whole thing is great, but it’s no more than 26 and a half minutes long. That’s an EP in my book. Levitation used to do single songs longer than that.