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There just might be a certain warped truth to the phrase "guilt by association." As in the case of Red Sparowes, its formal associations with such heavy, propulsive bands as Isis and Neurosis would lead you to expect that the Los Angeles quintet's debut would be a masterfully crafted epic of primal urgency.
However, Red Sparowes is epic without bombast, heavy without a single bar-chord riff and eviscerating without any clearly audible vocals. The chiming, spindly layers of effect-laden guitars and the swinging, entrancing drums on its Neurot Recordings debut 'At the Soundless Dawn' create textures reminiscent of Goblin, Death in June, Tones on Tail and early Sonic Youth. Its attack is syrupy and serpentine; subtle but frighteningly deliberate.
Red Sparowes is comprised of members of Isis, Neurosis and Halifax Pier. The sum total of its sound, however, stems more so from esoteric melodic guitar-surrealists of the mid-80's Blast First and Too Pure hive than the fierce realism of the aforementioned cabal of heavy-psych rock.
Throughout their first full length, 'At the Soundless Dawn', transitions glide and instruments smudge into a warm wash of tones. It's an orchestral wall of sound that is equally as entrancing as it is unnerving. The 12-minute album closer, for instance, gradually builds tension with clever use of smeared, formless guitar notes that create a sense of three-dimensional sound as notes seem to move from background to foreground, flitting around an imaginary room. Sparing tom drum rolls add to the growing claustrophobia, until ever-rebuilding waves of strings cascade into a grand crescendo that finishes as mysteriously as it began.
While 'At the Soundless Dawn' uses vocals as subtle instrumentation, the group plans to incorporate voices further into its sound. This stunning introduction to Red Sparowes, recorded in San Francisco by engineer Desmond Shea (who also did additional engineering on the recent Neurosis album, The Eye of Every Storm) is just the beginning for a band that promises to change the way we think about heavy music. Its family of related artists is certainly good company. But, where their common goals to experiment with epic, cathartic music meet, Red Sparowes branches far outside of the expected boundaries.
Although the band members are indeed tied to many other projects, Red Sparowes is not just a side-project. The band is gonna tour around its busy schedules, making a.o. one stop at the Rh‚‚‚ Lovely!
-) 2005 : 'At The Soundless Dawn' on Neurot Recordings.
Two tracks of their forthcoming album are to be downloaded here.