Peaks & Troughs. Grim Tower, Anarchic Breezes.

Peaks & Troughs. Grim Tower, Anarchic Breezes.

If the previously adopted nom de plumes of Vancouver psych guru Stephen McBean say anything of the man himself, then it’d be fairly safe to assume he’s a real taste for the vertiginous. Whether masquerading as Black Mountain or Pink Mountaintops, colours and summits seem to be the thrills he seeks. And as he here combines with serial collaborator Imaad Wasif (who counts Karen O and Lou Barlow among past accomplices) to become Grim Tower, it would appear that his soft spot for the skyscraping as yet shows no sign of abating. A 10-track d├ębut entitled Anarchic Breezes born of “backyard improvising with strangely detuned acoustic guitars” ostensibly belongs to the obscure realms of death folk, although neither are its contents altogether funereal nor indeed in many respects grim. For McBean and Wasif here erect an occasionally compelling, and momentarily monolithic recording.

Take the banjo-based droning of a woebegone Reign Down: erratic, squiggly riffs meet with terms of otherworldly tempest to make for a recording which has considerably more ups, downs and dips to it than McBean’s native seaport city. His vocal impassioned and potent, it’s a work of engaging wonderment with its two authors and moreover their instruments acutely attuned to one another. So too the mythic, Asiatic take of All The Beautiful Things matches up a littoral West Coast lethargy with vocal harmonies originating from a half a world away while the segueing instrumental and the album’s title track then jacks up the experimentality factor, distorted oscillations wandering dizzily around spells of static and hypnotic acoustic, all of which contributes to an hypnagogic overarching effect.

Although elsewhere, wild undulations in quality ensue: opener Soft Seance taps into sludgy nothingness; Blue proves an achromatic ditty lacking in stylistic cohesion and so too substance; Orpheus Light feels an extraneous, and with that redundant (if mercifully curt) Cobain homage.

Thus whilst McBean and Wasif sporadically chart such great heights, they’re all too often slipping down the face of the scree…

Released: June 3rd, 2013 [Outer Battery Records]

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