‘Firmament’ is entrancing
I don’t know why instrumental bands even bother to name their songs if collectively they all flow so well. This is none more potent than the tracks off of Firmament, the new release from the Raleigh-based trio Gray Young. The group has graced the Triangle scene before, with the lulling Kindle Field E.P., but this is a more personal progress. The album’s epic miniature symphonies of soaring post-rock anthems evoke a forceful pounding of drums and bass, culminating in a cathartic slumber. It leaves many a listener moodily swaying in its brilliance.
While one cannot help but notice obvious similarities to bands like Explosions in the Sky, Caspian, Mono, and The Appleseed Cast, to name a few, Gray Young exploits its own familiar sound with gravitational potential. The soft, breathy vocals complement the melodic blare of guitars and bass. It’s forceful and gloomy, but ethereal and infectious. Gray Young does not bother with extremely long songs that tend to be a staple on most instrumental albums (Hello, Godspeed You Black Emperor!). Instead, the band focuses on creating a poignant parting in the album openers “Provenance” and “Convoy”, eliciting a meditative simplicity as brief and wistful as fading autumn leaves.
The droopy strumming does tends to wear off near the end of Firmament, however, as the band sluggishly relays the remainder of the record. The songs start sounding more and more alike as the album starts to thin. The strange murmurs of“(Ghost Notes)” clouts an otherwise vivid instrumentation, but the cascading forays are only minor in the album’s overall beauty.
I think what makes Gray Young special is their local sensibility and the sense of pride it creates for people of Raleigh and all of North Carolina, just as the same way Explosions in the Sky do for Austin, Texas. But geographical sentiments aside, Gray Young is a rhythmic harvest. The warm and distorted guitars tones in “Tilling the Wind” and the steady bass solo in “Cavalcade for Sundown” are rare finds in the recession-worn era of disbanding groups and suffering local music shops. But the soft teasing of brooding intensity, none more prevalent than in the luscious “Firmament” pleads a change, or a “new era of responsibility” if you will.
The thing about post-rock instrumental bands is that no member is more primal than any other. It’s all a collaborative effort. Gray Young, post-rockers they are, give their all to this equivocal intimacy, and receive the same incandescence tit-for-tat. Music this raw and delicate deserves more than to be mentioned or placed on a soundtrack of some television drama. It should be enjoyed beyond the scope of Raleigh’s backyard. It should be sought for.
Gray Young will be playing a CD release show with Goner at Slim’s Downtown on February 20th.
88.1 WKNC DJ Pick of the Week is published in every Tuesday print edition of the Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.