Autumn’s Grey Solace
~reviewed by Stuart Moses
I like FX-pedals. I like what they do to the sound of electric guitars. I like going for walks in the woods just as the sun comes up. I like walking along pebbly beaches as the sun goes down. It must come as no surprise that I like shoegazing. Though navel gazing might be a more appropriate, though a less savoury, label. It helps that bands like Slowdive, The Belltower and My Bloody Valentine became popular when I was at an impressionable age. I can’t listen to this sort of stuff all the time, but in certain circumstances it makes perfect sense and I’m drawn away by a tide of wistful, though vague, feelings of melancholy and regret.
I’m temporarily caught off guard by the plucked guitar that opens “Human Shell”. This sounds like The Sundays. There’s a hint of wall-of-guitar noise in the background that threatens to be unleashed at any moment, but never is. This feels like a rambling stroll through the woods. The scenery is nice, but there’s little to get the heart racing. Yet, if you listen to the words there’s a delightfully apposite story being told. While the music may be languid the words speak of chaotic wraiths that tantalize the frail: “In the middle of this war.” There’s more depth here than a few cursory listens can reveal.
“Falling Sky” does have a more traditional
shoegazing sound. The guitars chime like snowfall and this listener drifts
off into a reverie. My only criticism is that I don’t think the vocals
need to be drenched in quite so many FX. The lyrics are simple, lovely
and difficult to make out:
“In my library
Listened to in isolation “Sorrow Ashes” would be a pleasant enough plod. The sort of thing that Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star might have made if she’d grown up in the Thames Valley, home of the original shoegazers. By this point though there seems to be too much of a formula to Autumn’s Grey Solace and my attention begins to wander. I wonder if I’ve left the oven on. The guitars swell beautifully, but I’m getting more resistant to the waves beckoning to take me away. Elsewhere “A Tangle of Scars” leads me to demote this music to background while I get on with other aspects of my humdrum existence. While there is less potential for arguments with two-piece bands, I can’t help but wonder whether a larger line-up might create greater listening variety.
I’m rapidly regarding this CD as aural candyfloss. It’s attractive to look at, is slightly insubstantial but enjoyable at first. Eventually however it becomes sickly. “Hollow Girl” has some clanging guitar just past the two-minute mark that prevents nausea. Suddenly it jars to a halt. My attention is captured. How unexpected.
But it is not as big a surprise as “The Unshakeable Demon”. This is the point that Riverine really takes off. It’s hardly AC/DC, but Scott and Erin show more attitude here than ever before. We’re still in shoegazing territory, we’ve just moved from Slowdive to early Lush. Erin implores someone or something to: “Take me on/A demonistic war”. Elsewhere she disturbingly asks: “Don’t you see that I’m like a plague?” There’s an impressive use of fast/slow dynamics. Once again I wonder if the vocals are over-produced but it’s a small quibble. This is a fantastically meaty song. As a vegetarian that’s not a metaphor I use lightly.
Similarly, “Eclipse” is delicious and nutritious, and won’t leave you feeling sick. The use of harmonics briefly remind me of The Cure, while the guitar flourishes just before the two-minute mark (again!) particularly impress. It’s not for me to wish that Autumn’s Grey Solace be a band they do not wish to be, but these last two songs prove of what they are capable. Maybe the fault is with the track listing. It seems strange to put songs this strong towards the end.
Scott leaves it three minutes before he introduces his guitar pyrotechnics in “Cloudburst”, but they are worth the wait. They are as fiery as someone staring at their feet dare create. We come to a close with “Inward Bound” where the sweetness of Erin’s vocals is undercut by lyrics about “the Earth’s demise”.
The first half of Riverine, up to and including “Cold and Empty Constellations” is beautifully created, but ultimately leaves me feeling cold and distant, while simultaneously feeling wistful and melancholy. From “Hollow” onwards, Autumn’s Grey Solace show much more life and I would recommend listeners here for their fix of atmospheric alternative indie.
Scott Ferrell - electric and acoustic guitar, bass guitar, 12-string guitar, 7-string guitar, baritone guitar, hybrid guitars, mandolin, mechanical drums, acoustic drums, and percussion. The primary music composer of Autumn's Grey Solace.
The website: http://www.autumnsgreysolace.com/