Before The Dawn Heals Us
John Herschel (1847): h 3523 [upon seeing the M83 Spiral Galaxy in the Hydra Constellation]
Scaling back the massive deluge of instruments on their last album, Gonzalez instead opts to buttress many of the songs with decidedly organic drums and guitar. The resultant pieces intelligently abstain from the expected sound and contribute some flesh into what would have been a purely mechanical affair. Included also are more vocals and, more importantly, a wider range of vocal variety which lends subtlety and sinewy realism. Such additions are instantaneously felt with ‘Moonchild,’ the album’s opener, rolling in with echoing drums and a muffled narrative. ‘Don’t Save Us From The Flames’ is bleak but not adulterated, the drums again used along with a voice screeching the refrain, “Tina! Tina!”
‘In The Cold I’m Standing’ marks a significant stylistic departure as the instruments are reduced to evanescence rather than the conflagration the listener is used to, at numerous points feigning an end. ‘Fields, Shorelines, and Hunters’ returns you to their typical sound, except that the synths and keyboards, propelled by the drums, sound like sirens as they hardly change pitch or make any great attempts at inflection. Follower ‘*’ appends the prior track by pushing the drums and guitar to the fore, adding a frenetic backbone to the piece and officially introducing darkness to the collusion.
‘Safe’ initially sounds unseemly with just Gonzalez on vocals and a simple piano movement, but it merely marks the beginning of a mesmerizing and scary triptych in the album. From there it leads into ‘Let Men Burn Stars,’ buoying the piano with distortion and ending with the muffled sound of fireworks. The last part of the triplet, ‘Car Chase Terror !’ is for sure the album’s highlight. In it actress Kate Moran plays both a scared mother and her daughter in a surrealistic and harkening soliloquy. The music itself doesn’t come in until the end of the track, but when it does it first decelerates into ‘Slight Night Shiver’—the sounds of cars passing by still obvious—until it picks up weight and speed again with ‘A Guitar and a Heart.’
It’s safe to say that Before The Dawn Heals Us has more depth, but not necessarily because it employs anything more complicated than Dead Cities. Indeed, much of it has been scaled back in comparison to their last work but what Gonzalez added was control and a large degree of uncertainty. No doubt some schadenfreude is involved while listening to this album because it feels a lot like bearing witness to some moribund experiment. Characters in this narrative don’t always flourish, but their ends aren’t guaranteed either. The last track, ‘Lower Your Eyelids to Die With The Sun’ attests to this as the preceding theater you experienced seems to pass quickly into a bright light; the great darkness enveloped by an equally great and constant heat.
Release date: January 25, 2005
Label: Mute U.S.
Rating: 9.9 / 10
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