Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Angelus' "There Will Be No Peace"

Denton ain't what it used to be. Back in January, a Midwestern friend of mine who'd worked for Amtrak played a gig at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio. He got out of the van, saw the light rail station I'd never noticed before across the street, and said, "This place will be gone in six months." RGRS presented their last shows in June. No more shows in the basement at J&J's Pizza on the square, either, where I once saw a band soundcheck for an hour and a half before playing a set of 120 dB noise that cleared not only the basement, but the restaurant as well.

In some ways, The Angelus -- currently a trio, fronted by singer-guitarist-songwriter Emil Rapstine -- are the archetypal Denton band, men of somber mien and rustic sensibility, not extraordinarily prolific, but steady. Their trajectory reflects their hometown's changing scene: a 2004 EP released by The Pyramid Scheme, an art collective whose principal is now part of the group that revived the Dallas movie house where Lee Oswald was captured; a 2011 full-length on Gutterth, the imprint of a two-man concern that promoted shows and released records from 2006 to 2013, whose legacy continues with Denton's Civil Recording.

These days, Rapstine & Co. dock in Dallas, and they have a new record ready to drop in January on the exquisitely curated Tofu Carnage label, known for its beautifully packaged releases. The songs on There Will Be No Peace flow inexorably from one to the next, each starting on the last note of the one that preceded it, and a continuity of mood, like a ceremonial rite, permeates the proceedings. The sound is dark and stark, a step back from its predecessor's more orchestrated sound, heavy but not jarring, arranging simple elements -- incantory voices, droning guitar chords, locked-in bass and drums -- to engage and envelop the listener.

The opening acapella invocation gives way to a wordless explosion of roaring guitar and pounding rhythm, coalescing into a descending melody, blanketed in clouds of harmonic feedback, that culminates in a dissonant solo. A mournful plaint leads to an awakening acknowledgement of existence and a soaring celebration of solitude, sown with the seed of doubt. Adversity is confronted and overcome, but the journey ends in negation and despair. Listen and imagine yourself transported to a place out of time, far from the reach of gentrified modernity.


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