A review by The Buried Herald
🔲 Somewhere between light and dark...🔳
Of all things that come to mind when listening to Descent by Charivari, water and melancholia are two constantly recurrent themes. I can’t help but visualize all the depth, texture and ether conveyed by their music. Be it raging seas, a morning drizzle feeding the dry crops or the cold depth of oceans’ deepest secrets. Descent is a sonic tale where genres flow through each other, guided by meticulous instrumental work and enhanced with gentle vocals. In times where outdoor activity is temporarily inadvisable, travelling through one’s imagination is a rather attractive alternative. And trust me, this record will do a great job at showing you around.
The album begins with When Leviathan Dreams where a softly ominous sound gradually breaks the silence and is swiftly caught up with some splashy drums and the mellow vocals of both Gary Say and Annie Gardner. The atmosphere here feels heavenly, somewhat full of hope and positivity. And as the track slowly ends, the instruments develop a sharper sound, carry more energy only to later cool down again and fade into the abyss. A final note: When Leviathan Dreams is heavily reminiscent of Molecule, the opening track off Weedpecker’s 3rd album. In particular when it comes to overall composition and the divine guitar tone.
Lotus Eater continues the journey yet strikes some different notes this time. Not only would I now take away the word ‘positivity’ in favor of ‘confusion’, but I would point to the contrast between the heavy and the light that is all so prevalent here. The sudden burst of distortion came after just over a minute of delicate instrumental play dangling somewhere between Yawning Man and Slowdive. Things would then calm down only to be ignited again with the same massive wall of sound consuming everything on its way. Interestingly enough, what follows is yet another tense ride. This time without any stops or sharp changes in tempo, Apothic pierces straight ahead having all instruments combined into one sonic spearhead. And while the spike in speed and the noise-rock feel reminded me of a maddening run through stormy waters, the song title itself refers to life without sun, the space underwater which no sun rays can penetrate.
Then comes Down By The River where a seemingly distant choir briefly paves way for what’s to arrive next. And that is the enchanting combination of both guitars and vocal work by Gary that blends perfectly with the background choir and the timid yet well-articulated bass and drum lines. In stark contrast to Aphotic, this song here is all but tense. The vibe is lax, no audible distortion and there is overall tranquility. Down By The River was to be a memory, it’d be one of lying on a grassy riverbank, staring into shifting sky and letting myself be caressed by warm rain leaking through the clouds. In all that giving myself in to the general melancholia that seems inherent to the song. You get the picture.
And with Descent you are now thrown into an ocean and left at its mercy, lit by moonlight and clinging to nothing. This cut is a fully instrumental, 6-minute behemoth that is as spacious as it is unsettling. In a way resembling the music of Earth, especially its rather industrial and somber appeal. Descent stands out from the other tracks in that it doesn’t have a sense of direction or boundaries. The absence of percussion and the irregularity of cello strokes leaves the listener confused and stranded in this shapeless sonic entity. Add to that the occasional saxophone or synths and you get something of a truly intricate nature. And the moment the track fades out, Alexandria shyly comes around to lift your spirits yet again. The instrumental play here is so delicate one may think it could easily collapse. But it won’t. It will slowly grow and ripen accompanied by Gary’s distant voice luring you into wherever Alexandria lies.
Securing the rear is Scavengers Of The Wind, the longest track of the album. Opening with a rather familiar bass/drum combo, it continues forward until guitar and later vocals catch up with the mellow rest. Slowly pushing forward, things suddenly take a sharp turn and the noise-rock beast is being unleashed again. Distortion fills the room to the brim, drums set the course straight and bass crushes any signs of resistance. The wall of sound just keeps on growing until it eventually cools down in a highly industrial fashion. Not for long though as this sonic machine swiftly regains momentum and raises madness for one last time. In the end all that’s left is just a single guitar screech which dies soon after.
Overall, I deem Descent as a precisely crafted work of music that bridges various genres to its advantage. Fans of shoegaze will enjoy the spaciousness and articulation of Charivari’s walls of sound as will the lovers of psych. The production here is done pretty damn well, both in terms of depth and texture which vary across all 7 songs. While some cuts on this record seem a bit tedious and repetitive, it’s alright as I see it as an essential component to the atmosphere the band tries to convey. And then you got the contrast between light and darkness, the harsh and the gentle which makes for a highly sentimental ride through one’s inner self.
Descent is one of those debut LP’s that make you stop and ponder. Only to then stay by your side and be of great help in moments of emotional need.
🔲 🔳 🔲
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