September 26th, 2007 | by Erik Bader Music | Posted In: Columns, Album Reviews, Album Reviews

YELLOW SWANS, At All Ends (Load Records)

     
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AtAllEnds_YellowSwans[NOISE] Portland noisemongers Yellow Swans' latest LP, At All Ends, isn't so much a departure from its recent freeform sounds—it's a departure from reality. The seemingly mind-melded duo of Gabriel Mindel Saloman (guitar, electronics) and Pete Swanson (electronics, vocals) has churned up an ocean of sound and, seemingly, traversed it aboard a wooden ghost ship from hell.

The album slowly opens with the near-12-minute title track, a majestic tune fueled by claustrophobic chimes that bring to mind prime-era Nurse With Wound. A haunted realm where sonic lava flumes violently collide with ice-cold sprays of noise, the track closes with an unlikely guitar solo packed with acid-soaked arpeggios of twisted star-spangled anthems. The whole thing then quickly devolves into total white-noise release.

From here, the Swans spread their wings across a trilogy of alliterative, desert-themed songs, including “Stretch the Sands,” “Our Oases” and “Mass Mirage.” These stark landscapes may be bleak in feel and subject matter, but they're by no means empty: Squalls of melody and sheets of spiky sound roll and crash like sonic tumbleweed. And album closer “Endlessly Making an End of Things” (which takes its title from a poem by Paul Celan) begins with tension but soon finds catharsis in ominous guitar melodies and distant howls of wordless vocals—all building to a final cacophony, a bang that fades without a whimper.

Recorded by Marcelo Spina of local experimental-psych group Mustaphamond—with mixing and arranging assists from Emil Amos (Grails)—and sporting sparse cover art by Jamie Potter (one-third of experimental-drone outfit Bonus), the album is clearly a local affair (the mastering was done by renowned black metal studio whiz Drucifer, perhaps lending some of its darker undertones). Yellow Swans has come a long way from the spastic electro-cartoon violence of 2004's Bring the Neon War Home, and At All Ends further cements the band's place at the forefront of Portland's thriving noise underground. In most music scenes, it's the cream that rises—but in Portland, it's the curdled cream that's leading the crop.

Yellow Swans plays Sunday, Sept. 30, with Mouthus, Trees and Bonus at Branx. 9 pm. $5. 21+.
 
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