Saturday, 1 June 2013

Steering By Stars - The Cold Embrace

Album review by jay@thesoundofconfusion.co.uk


'The Cold Embrace' draws you in with tattoos of beats and stark piano. 'The Foundry' then expands out with Lachlan J Wilson's rich, haunting vocal. Fitting its industrial template, 'The Foundry' is all raw heat, explosions of guitars and "the phoenix rising from the flames" outlined over shredded vocals. 'The Foundry' then bleeds into 'Oil and Blood' with shimmering, spiralling post-punk guitar, drawing you around on a twisted dance, then the beauty is broken by "never the same love twice" being spat out. 'Oil and Blood' then takes you up again with a measure and control akin to Sigur Ros or Foals. You are then reminded of the song's urgent beauty as it falls away into a mesmerising soundscape as the mantra of "never the same..." is chanted across the ether.

After the cathartic beauty of 'Oil and Blood', 'Ties That Bind' is of a more measured pace. Riding in on a hypnotic motorik beat, Wilson's voice is less cracked and the song runs deep in a dark, sensual groove. "I am drifting in your skin" ties you into the sensuality here. A heady ride which concludes asking if the pleasure is too much, "if you have had enough". Then 'Oceans' washes over you after the heat-filled ride of 'Ties That Bind'. You gratefully let yourself swim in its depths. A post-coital, hypnotic, almost meditative ethereal track that allows you to collect yourself, as if readying you for the next act. Wilson implores to be "smothered with your kisses". Sublime prettiness of twinkling bells and gentle piano entices you into 'Ink'. It slowly builds, each little step bringing a sublime grandeur to the song; vocals echoing as if in prayer in some grand hall. 'Ink' has a studied grace the reminds of also emerging band Embers, it's in no hurry to overpower with bombast and keeps its stately feel to a gentle conclusion.

Darker, ragged and loose, 'Shallow Breath' comes over all angular rhythms and structure. Here Steering By Stars show a Radiohead grasp of concepts, they are almost too disparaging and unconnected, but somehow they combine to produce a visceral and intense track. Throbbing, pulsing instrumental 'Exposure' leads you in 'The Cold Embrace's final act. 'Collision' pounds out, as running through black rain, racing to outrun some dark shadow. A sharp clarion call of a guitar brings in a shaft of light cracking through the blackened sky. 'Collision' sustains its frenetic pace, but never runs out of breath. It briefly allows you to stand and catch yourself, then runs even faster. Words almost lost in the maelstrom, you can just make out a plea of "please, please". After the storm, 'Silhouettes' bathes you in warm sun. Enveloping it allows you to turn your head to the sun and let the warmth fill you.

Concluding song 'Maneuvers in the Dark' keeps you in the glow for a little while, then its regimented drums and naked piano and voice march you into a darker place. A powerful journey of a song, it becomes redemptive as you hear another plea, this time to be held. Maybe to keep out 'The Cold Embrace', the song ends with a motif of shimmering, pin pricks of exquisite sound. 'The Cold Embrace' is a quite wonderful album. It is at times dark, intense, visceral and cathartic. Then it has a beauty, poise and grace that is rare to find, so hold on tight to this one.




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