Gloomlights appears as a double disc spectacular. One hour forty-two minutes, and eighteen tracks of pure pop/shoegazey/synthy melancholia - each disc bringing a distinct taste and sound to the table. Airs are a duo based on opposing sides of America, making music in the rawest sense and recording everything themselves. Each release being something a little bit special considering the lengths (quite literally) gone to to get the piece made.
Setting up it's modus operandi from the outset, Gloomlights kicks off with "Harvest Moon," a gorgeously shimmering nigh on ten minute track. Beginning with simple plucked notes and an almost ethereal barely there vocal line dipping in and out of the background it soon lurches through each of the distinct sounds that establish an Airs record. Suddenly, fuzzy and distorted guitars creep in and there's the intensity of the harsher side of the band in those pounding blastbeats. The closing minutes feature a more stripped back sound full of sadness and, well, gloom.
The thing that's particularly interesting about Airs, is that no matter how upbeat and just plain darn catchy a song is, it's the depth of emotion shown that pulls through. Listen to the lyrics of "White Rose" or "Feathers." Songs that get the toe tapping and the head nodding, but are in fact intensely serious as subject driven tracks. The poppy chorus masking what should be a somber tone. It's this juxtaposition that makes listening to this band quite rewarding, making you have a little think about the words being sung. Of course there's some more downbeat tracks featured, all "happy" all of the time would be fairly boring indeed. "Heart" is one of these such tracks. Sadness pouring out through the gently picked guitar lines, a deep and low bass sound rumbling along underneath. Distortion jarring the senses in all the right places, it's a tad heartbreaking and the genuine emotion felt in Aaron Kelley's vocal is just sublimely despondent.
All instruments are handled by the other member of the group, Chris Broyles - lending his touch to guitar and drum machine alike. Some sounds feeling as though they would fit right in with a mid-90's video game, others as if they've come straight from an early-80's goth group. And in no way is this a slight on the band, it's all these ingredients and influences that add up to something exciting. Releasing this full length on Music Ruins Lives - a label much loved here at Scene Point Blank due to their sheer dedication in putting out truly incredible music - Airs are beginning to step away from their initial black metal-like sound and incorporating new senses and ideas.
Closing the first disc, "The Watchers" is reminiscent of Joy Division and The Cure. All jangly guitar and a slightly militaristic drum beat - it's got a lovingly crafted post-punk almost cold wave feel to it. It's the flipside of disc 2 introduction, "Scene." If disc 1 was the "Lights" then this is the "Gloom." Minimal in nature initially, it's a terrifically ambient piece conjuring up a feeling of despair and loneliness. Gently strummed notes sit in washes of sound until the two minute marks when the full fury of the lo-fi and murky guitar pulsates through.
This second side is probably the more experimental of the two. Dispirited and devoid of hope, the title track "Gloomlights" is an eleven minute masterpiece. Bewitchingly morose, it's a shining example of the path Airs have now taken. Post rock in all it's trappings, muted guitar and low mixed vocals share space with a somewhat martial drum beat and the sense of profound sadness creeps up on you slowly and unnervingly. It's a tone carried on throughout this disc, and whilst both sides have their pluses, it's probably best go into each one separately. Each an album unto itself, picking the right one for the mood is key.
"Shift (Repeat)" is the final track for this piece. The complete opposite to the previous closer, it's ten minutes of ambient soundscapes - masses of reverb and feedback wailing at you from all angles. The final minute taking on a haunting tone with Silent Hill-esque horror. Infrequent noises that can't quite be placed sending a chill down the spine. Glorious.
8.5 / 10
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