Wrekmeister Harmonies - Light Falls (Thrill Jockey)

US experimental post-rock band return with ambitious, brilliantly realised fourth LP

Released Sep 16th, 2016 via Thrill Jockey / By Erick Mertz
Wrekmeister Harmonies - Light Falls (Thrill Jockey) Named after a landmark film by Hungarian director Bela Tarr, an iconoclast of cinematic storytelling, Wrekmeister Harmonies is an experimental music group, based out of Chicago, Illinois, centered on lead composer and guitarist JR Robinson. Relatively new as a creative vehicle, the outfit has recorded only three albums in their three odd years working together, yet have already received major accolades, not the least of which being their performances in unconventional venues, like MOMA, the Pompidou Center and the Andy Warhol Museum.

Throughout this latest seven-track album, Light Falls I felt as though I was listening to two distinct pieces of music, perhaps two separately crafted EPs gathered in one place. There are the three movements of a series entitled “Light Falls” (its title drawn from a Primo Levi treatise on his year living in Auschwitz) and the other tracks. The observation of separateness should not be taken as an underhanded statement on quality, all the tracks feature great production quality, unique nuggets of post-rock/post-metal, a place where thoughtful aggression ventures out after hours. But it’s hard to ignore how cohesive the first tracks work together, from the spectrally ponderous “The Mantra” which pits acoustic guitars against Robinson’s spoken word vocals, a la Leonard Cohen, to the more grinding second movement, “The Light Burns Us All” which begins to introduce elements of drone metal. Everything seems to synthesize in the last track “Light Sick” an aspirant, shape-shifting track that vacillates between raw and formed. As a triptych, “Light Falls” is gorgeous, the instruments cleanly laid into the mix, even when they turn heavy.

The final four tracks are moody and evocative work, with the spirited, guitar-manic “The Gathering” leading off, followed by a more ambient “Where Have You Been My Lovely Son?” which layers eerie strings under the surface of gently strummed guitar and bass. By far my favorite single song of the album is “Some Were Saved Some Drowned” which is the six minutes where everything gathered along the way through Light Falls seems to smash and blend into a single, epic collision.

As a collective, Wrekmeister Harmonies draws on a massive resource pool, their last album Night Of Your Ascension employing over thirty musicians in its quest for actualization. Robinson is a heady character. His conceptual basis for the group is steeped in a philosophy of societal degradation and decay. The focus of this album and again, the band, is on finding adequate emotional reflection of that worldview.

I’m someone lately who is drawn to, and at the same time, highly suspicious of what can be called high concept heavy music. What the imagination conjures is rarely paid off in the studio. This is not the case with Wrekmeister Harmonies though, this record one that is in sum, accomplished and unique in how well that idea of evil in modern society is given room to breath, as opposed the freedom to suffocate.