'Ensemble' offers up a suffocating collection of percussive, cacophonous compositions from art rock crew Death Blues. Jon Mueller is at the forefront, so of course this thing is fronted by an intense drum performance, while the violins and strings swell and tremble around him in fear. The record comes with supplementary essays about "presence and experience". Recommended for fans of A Silver Mt Zion and the Dirty Three, if they could terrify you just that little bit extra.
Vinyl LP £28.99 RPLX002
Jon Mueller & William Fritch's collaboration LP on Rhythmplex packaged in a deluxe 16-page full colour hardback book.
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- Ensemble by Death Blues
'Ensemble' is the kind of record that reminds you we're all going to die and leave nothing behind, so let's just make something ridiculous, loud, and impossible -- something that, even if it's just for an hour, is bigger than the world itself. I've heard that huge, monolithic sound once already this year, in another post-rock driven record that threw caution to the wind and just strummed, thrummed and screamed until the world was red in the face with it: that was A Silver Mt Zion's 'Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything'. But 'Ensemble', its otherworldly, acoustically arranged sibling, might be even better: its freewheeling ambitions mean even more, and it captures as many human emotions as it can with a small sample of the world that composes and performs like they've run the gamut.
Also, I have a question: is Jon Mueller actually just Michael Gira? There's that thing Gira does when he's on stage and his band aren't violent and vitriolic enough for him -- he waves and shouts at them until he can barely breathe and they're chewing their tobacco way, way harder. Jon Mueller's expectations on his band -- to be completely vulnerable and totally expressive, emoting with every note and percussive snap -- make 'Ensemble' a record that gets exponentially more epic, the gestures becoming more sweeping, the strings sharper. Should Jon Mueller and Michael Gira write an apocalypse movie? Probably.
'Ensemble' is a reminder that this kind of Big Sound, which can be made by anyone from M83 to Swans to fucking U2, if you want, can be made out of the textures in the ground. This record is pure and earthly, the acoustic arrangements loud and sweltering, and making for some of the most aggressive music I've heard this year -- but all without an overload of caustic feedback and the usual mountain of effects. For a record so obsessed with masks and barriers, it has none: it's ecstatic, and it's naked.
It's hard not to get pulled in by the sheer force of this thing -- the guitars are ferocious, the strings hopeful, the chimes beautiful and the percussion desperate. It's one of the biggest contradictions of the year, pushing a torrent of emotional states through the wind at the same time. Because, Jon Mueller, ain't that just life? "We're all going to die though", he tells me. So listen to 'Ensemble'.
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