Sometimes I’m unsure exactly where to start with writing about an album. On other occasions, the band/musicians make things if not exactly easy then perhaps at least partially apparent, signposting their music through identifiable types of genre and style, and allowing music writers to spend fewer hours attempting to categorize what they’re listening to. But if ever a music label chose its name well, that label is Hidden Shoal. Based in the Australian city of Perth, it’s a name that invokes ideas about the unseen, about the less than obvious, and if you expect that their output contains much in the way of Ambient and Post-Rock recordings then you are quite right, and the consistent brilliance of these is perhaps matched only by the actual obscurity of many of the labels artistes.
Gilded won’t find themselves on magazine covers and top 40 listings. Some would argue that they don’t actually belong there, but has anyone ever wondered what would happen if Ambient Post-Rock were suddenly the, for want of a more accurate phrase, new Rock N Roll? In this alternate cultural scenario Gilded might find themselves lauded as the originators, as the quite remarkable talents they actually are in more formats than just the Indie Webzine one. Terrane is a work of adeptly inspired craftsmanship that’s very nearly breathtaking in its evolving forms, ambient without being soporific, containing an evocative and far from melancholic energy at its core and which, as I think I’ve already commented when reviewing other Hidden Shoal releases, not enough people will get to hear.
I’ll avoid falling back on some of the guesswork regarding influences that I often use when reviewing albums such as this. Matt Rosner and Adam Trainer definitely possess an interesting album collection between them, and first track “Velor” does contain one or two hints as to where their own music takes its cues from. I’ll leave it to other listeners to decide what these are though, from its opening duet of piano and sustained cello the track metamorphoses into an extended improvisation that extends the opening motifs around as far as the track length (and none of tracks here are much over seven minutes) allows for, and as the cello playing develops away from looped notes and into detuned atonality the rhythmic backing increases in its intensities. Gilded show an element of restraint in their musicality that prevents their slipping too far into the self indulgence that Post Rock is often criticised for, and next track “String And Stone” displays this skill to near mesmeric effect. A metronomic shower of percussive meteors, its melody and rhythm fit seamlessly and incessantly together and it’s one track on Terrane that I for one would appreciate hearing in an extended form. “Dew Cloud” takes a more classically informed approach, perhaps it started life as a sonata until Gilded decided to add cymbals and reverberating effects to its purposefully performed tempo and as the track develops away from this Gilded wilfully deconstruct the opening passage into a near chaotic percussion event and the element of subtlety that this is done with only adds to its destructive grandeur.
Much like Camera’s Radiate! album which I reviewed here a month or so ago, Gilded seem somehow constrained by the limitations of their studio enviroment and also like Camera there’s a constant tension at play throughout their music, even in its quieter moments. Fifth track “Tyne” shows Gilded both aware of and able to develop these conflicting aspects, a simultaneously assertive and claustrophobic piece that only gains in its momentum as it progresses and that again could work very effectively at a greater length. ‘Cluttered Room’ is the absolute standout track of the album for me though. Whatever the reason, it was the first track from ‘Terrane that I actually heard and it is really is something that both Trainer and Rosner can think themselves justifiably proud of. Taking a folk based rhythm and employing their practiced style of repetition, it’s an ambient sea shanty given a darkly elegiac twist that perhaps shows where Gilded might develop their music into – this is after all only their first album – and its refrain contains a resonance that had me and probably also you, should you hear it, flicking the music player back to the start of the album with enthusiastic rapidity.
Hidden Shoal never disappoint in their releases but Terrane is a remarkable work even by their established and finely honed standards. Gilded are, as I mentioned in the opening to this review, unlikely to find themselves a very wide audience but music such as this both needs and deserves more attention than it’ll probably receive, and certainly those that do hear it will think themselves fortunate that music of this quality found its way onto their stereos.