23 August 2010

Gregor Samsa - rest (2008, Own Records)

When I discovered this album by Gregor Samsa in 2008, there was one french word that directly arose and seemed to encompass perfectly my perception : “Rest” was “ampoulé”.

Sadly i can't get an accurate translation of the word so I'll have to explain it better. “Ampoulé” could be translated into “turgid”, “pompous”, “bombastic” or overtly precious with a religious theatrical candor.
But already I considered this as a cruel and biased point of view as it was not exactly what I would mean about Gregor Samsa, as their works are obviously a more subtle affair and can't be resumed by such a shortcut.

The good aspects of “Rest” are that they left the usual epic archetypes of the genre, there is even more room for the vocals, more importance has been given to textures and compositions. They earned their own identity and became rapidly much more than just followers of Low, Mogwai, Sigur Ros or Cocteau Twins. They have developed their own sound which can be easily identifies, even if here they incorporated some classical contemporary influences, from Philip Glass to Steve Reich, from Arvo Part to Gorecki.

The real problem is the absence of an original point of view, something of their own, no real risks have been taken on the emotional perspective. Once that said, “Rest” is an impressive achievement, and the well-weighed integration of instruments like the celesta, vibraphone, piano, clarinet or mellotron offers a refreshing atmosphere prone to contemplation while walking alone through the alleys of a monumental cathedral.

On “Rest”, Gregor Samsa embraced a post-rock and neoclassical direction, with hints of ethereal slowcore at times, like on a superb “Jeroen Van Aken” featuring Rick Alverson (Spokane). I wish “Rest” was is less conventional record. It is a work of beauty and preciousness, with no place left for true fragility or intimacy. The two singers, Nikki King and Champ Bennett don't reveal themselves or add a personal tension or intimate melancholy to Gregor Samsa, they are contributing like elements of structure without capturing the emotions for their own intimate expression. They are intelligent and brilliant musicians, but while it was possible to find moving parts on their two first eps, there is none on this album, and while you keep silent, maybe with feelings of wonder but really never troubled.

“Rest” is beautiful, affected and solemn, never disturbing or surprising, lacking of urgency.

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