Friday, September 5, 2008

Grails - Sound and Videos

(NSFW? It is Friday, though...)

Grails - 'Take Refuge', from Take Refuge In Clean Living, Important Records 2008. Click to stream (it's a long song, so give it time to buffer).

And play it fucking loud!

These are three albums well worth owning. They are Grails' latest recordings, from last year's Burning Off Impurities, the shorter Take Refuge In Clean Living from earlier this year, to the new album Doomsdayers' Holiday due for release next month. I wrote a good deal about Take Refuge in the second part of my August/Best of 2008 series, and I think that the track of the same name may be the best single thing they've written yet.

Before this soon-to-be trio of albums, was an intermediary stage of more experimental work resulting in Interpretations of Three Psychedelic Rock Songs From Around the World (Southern Records, 2005) and Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 1, 2 & 3 (Important Records, 2006) building on their first two albums of more string-based, traditional work, Redlight and The Burden of Hope (2004 and 2003 respectively) released on Neurot Recordings, the label founded by members of the experimental metal band Neurosis.

Grails are entirely an instrumental rock band, with a sound that has swung between clean post-rock (Burden of Hope, Redlight, and a lot of Burning Off Impurities) and a much heavier, distorted 'metal' sound (Black Tar, Take Refuge). Whether it is soft or loud, however, it has been absorbing increasing amounts of Eastern and psychedelic influences. They are a sort of throwback band to the melding of Eastern melodies and Western guitar rock of the 60s, but also as vast and as intense as any modern post-rock band from which they take a lot of their contemporary context. I've said that, in my opinion, Grails might be the best post-rock band around at the moment, although I do recognise that's rather a large claim to make. Mogwai, for example, are coming out with a very solid album The Hawk Is Howling about now, on top of the impressively Slinty Batcat EP, so it's their crown to lose I suppose. Which brings us neatly to Grails promising new album:

Doomsdayer's Holiday is available for pre-order from Temporary Residence Limited now (CD or 180 gram LP), and comes out on the 7th of October. There are two unique covers, the one shown above and a more demure one, so TRL are also offering a complete set with both versions of the LP and a free CD thrown in as well. If that's the kind of thing you're into.

The Grails Myspace has two songs from the album, 'Reincarnation Blues' and 'Predestination Blues' (obviously, they're going from Buddhism to Calvinism).


There are two sets here, one of music videos/visuals and one of live performances (all but the last come from The visuals show the blend of influences that make up Grails, from Eastern culture to the Western adaptation of that culture - fragments of old martial arts films, shots of Asian architecture - and in the case of of 'Take Refuge', ancient Greek civilisation. The live performances (both of the stand-out song from Burning Off Impurities, 'Silk Rd.', a name referring to, historically, the very link between East and West) show just how heavy the band are. Post-rock in the form of, say, Slint, is a movement which came out of hardcore - a fact which can be sublimated on record, but becomes more apparent when the music is flexed out in a live context.

'Take Refuge' (from Take Refuge In Clean Living)

'More Extinction' (from Burning Off Impurities)

'Silk Rd.' (from Burning Off Impurities) - live performance

'Silk Rd.' live @ the Bowery Ballroom - recorded by Blend77.

"Grails are not new-age. They are incredible-age."


josephlovesit said...

Glad you got the flash player working.

I really enjoyed this song. In addition to the middle eastern sounds, I hear a lot of surf-rock guitaring going on. It's a really reverb-drenched sound and is also another aspect of that psychedelic (or I guess surf was before psychedelia, but still) '60s sound. Not the corny type of surf-rock, but the badass, rockabilly-influenced, instrumental stuff like Link Wray was doing. Though I do like corny surf-rock as well, haha. But yea, totally awesome and original to my ears.

I'll have to check out Take Refuge and Doomsdayer's Holiday when I can get my DVD burner working again and clear some space off of my harddrive.

Anonymous said...

i need to get something by this band on vinyl. this is awesome.

gabbagabbahey said...

joseph - yes, surf-rock... I left the description short because I'm not familiar with 60s genres, but it is a big part of the Grails sound. Take Refuge from Clean Living has "an unexpected take ['11th Hour'] on a Ventures tune that returns the listener back to the very beginnings of instrumental rock music." (from the Amazon review)

I want to get the Interpretations album, too, it has one song each from the Byrds, Gong and Travellin' Flowers Band ('Satori', it's on their myspace, and mean "sudden enlightenment" in Japanese)

But most of all, I like the surf-rock because of the riffage it brings to the band :)

brad - yes, they're a good vinyl band. I only have Burning Off Impurities on vinyl at the moment (the other two are on order)... double LP with an etched fourth side. Beautiful artwork, too.

cretin said...

quite the awesome song. its an interesting collage of musical ideas and backgrounds (especially the aforementioned Middle-Eastern influence) that comes off as both fresh and interesting. I'll have to look into these guys further.

gabbagabbahey said...

do that.

definitely a collage. the first time I heard 'Silk Rd.', the jangly intro part of it, reminded me of the first album by the Velvet Underground. The ultimate 60s band, of course...

R. said...

definitely one of the most interesting bands around now. i really look forward to the new album.

if you want, check out my blog with transcripts from interviews i did with various bands during the time i hosted a radio show. steve von till (neurosis) and stuart braithwaite (mogwai) interviews are now online at