This is a guest post by Tim Gormley of Beer Blotter fame, make sure to checkout his website. If you would like to contribute to Volume by Alcohol please click here.
Earth should only ever play shows from inside a church…or maybe, more specifically, from within the hallowed walls of a Buddhist monastery. At the very least, some sacred, holy place. Otherwise, the space will always reveal its outrageous ineptitude for housing such brilliance. The sublime beauty of composition that seemingly pours perpetually from this Seattle drone outfit requires more. It flows like the ornate gown of a noble born princess, draping the flesh of the righteous in royal finery.
This five-song continuation of last year’s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light was recorded during the same two-week recording session, according to www.pitchfork.com. Not only does Angels II share the same vibe (drug-like euphoria) and instrumentation (guitar, bass, drums and cello) as the initial release, but it also shares Stacey Rozich’s artwork, which appropriately lends a native, tribal feel that only further emphasizes the holy place that the music effortlessly encompasses.
The album opens with “Sigil of Brass” which acts as a brief introductory piece to the spacious remainder. At 3 minutes and 32 seconds, it’s less than half the length of the next shortest track. It seems to play as a warm up, waking the tightly bound strings of Dylan Carlson’s guitar, Lori Goldston’s cello and Karl Blau’s bass from hibernation in preparation for the séance to follow. It feeds oxygen to the candlelight and wills to wake all earthbound spirits.
“His Teeth Did Brightly Shine” follows, a meandering track that truly encapsulates the native, tribal feel at hand, mostly enlightened through maraca shakes and layered guitar incantations. Adrienne Davies’ drums fall silent. The legendary Mr. Carlson does nearly all the work, gracefully weaving guitar tracks together to form a simple yet effective shroud that warms like the medicine man’s tee-pee campfire. Periodically, a twangy string bend accents the end of a movement and I’m left contemplating the instrument to credit. It’s a fleeting cameo, but it jostles me from my meditation, bringing realization to how easy it is to drift into the thick ether surrounding this spiritual ceremony.
In similar grounding fashion, the subtle strike of a gong in “Waltz (A Multiplicity of Doors)” is just enough of a nudge to return me to the surface, amongst meditative, robe clad men of the finest esteem. Otherwise, as I listen to the opulent string play on Angels II, I’m floating way above the daunting gravitational rigors of Earth’s landmass. These wings have enough breadth to feel no strain of weight, no pull of errant winds. I’m stricken with the calming freedom of a truly three-dimensional range of movement. Limitless environs let my mind and body wander, all the while, the thrill of flight grips me. It allows a new found sight line upon the lush lands of man. My own propulsion, sedate and meandering, breaths only a soft feathering of hushed winds about my brow, yet the airs are dense with evaporate and fill my lungs anew. Like floating on warm, calm waters, the soothing sensation weighs only my eyes, and when a blink wanes long into near sleep, I feel the natural oscillation of the world, like riding soft sound waves from rounded peak to embracing trough.
Angels II is royal finery woven into otherworldly textile. It becomes one with flesh, warming from the inside out and back again. It’s not so different from imbibing the most holy fermented beverage. Initially cold on the tongue, only to soon mingle with warm bloods and emanate a heat and a calm. The pairing of these pristine relaxants will surely prepare an honorable soul to mingle with the spirits.
Beer: Angel’s Share Brandy Barrel-Aged (2009)
Brewery: Lost Abbey
Style: Barley Wine
Angel’s Share pours completely opaque and still. A swirl of the glass produces zero foam or lacing, but some serious “legs” are apparent on the inside of the glass. It looks almost more like a black wine than a beer. One can only imagine that the viscosity of this fluid is such that carbon dioxide shudders at the thought of finding equilibrium in its inky confines.
The nose tells a more elaborate story. Complexity in scent absolutely pours from the glass and nearly smothers me. I stagger…whimper. Initial thoughts bleed chocolate, pureed raisins, ethanol, black cherry, over-ripe plum, rum, dense cake and fruity yoghurt. Oxidation and wood play a role that may be unsettling to the unfamiliar. Without question, this beer is formed by a lengthy recipe and much human interaction. This is a piece of art that may border on excess. Gobstopperian in nature, like a cross section of the mural wall at Easy Street Records – perhaps, an appropriate link to a soundwise comparison. Where Angels II uses a simplistic core to form its contemplative depth, Angel’s Share approaches in reverse – a stratified foundation to a single pour of blackness in a glass.
The alcohol burn is intense but an almost unsettling balance comes from a cornucopia of flavor compounds. This may be one unified product, but its effect sends my senses whirling. I’ve become dizzy attempting to summarize my perception. A futility overwhelms me, and I realize these pieces before me were crafted for the heaven sent souls – the winged ones. I’ve yet to stumble into the ranks of the blessed. Until then, I’ll simply have to hang on tight and enjoy the minutia that a life bound existence allows.
Across my tongue, the beer is as thick and chewy as sight betrayed. The lack of carbonation sparkle is…odd, but we’ll leave it to the angels. We’ve here a sugary syrup, painting all crevasses of my mouth with booze spiked black cherries dipped in chocolate sauce. The whole experience seems wildly over-indulgent. This is desert and nightcap rolled into one.
The aftertaste is reminiscent of some liqueur-based cordial mixed with brandy or whiskey. It’s very boozy and dense and lingering. Caramelized sugars seem to have been rung out of the charred flesh of oaken vessels. The intensity and richness of it all is driven home with each swallow. And I float along, as drones and drinks lift me higher still. The louder the volume, the shallower the glass’ contents, the closer I get to flying with the angels.