reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
Sheffield quartet Gilmore Trail return after five years away, with a deeply felt new album. It is their third long player, and since the second they have amicably replaced drummer Sam Ainger with Bob Brown
The band is named after a route in Alaska from which you can reliably see the Northern Lights, and their music has always reflected something of the mystery and awe generated from encounters with natural phenomena.
Impermanence is a collection of seven instrumentals looking to recapture that wonder, from a framework of change and uncertainty – completed as it was before the pandemic. Its intimate moments mark the passing of close family members, but further afield the music continues to look to nature for inspiration.
What’s the music like?
Virtuosic, deeply felt and atmospheric. These lovingly crafted instrumentals often begin with a deceptively simple melodic or harmonic cell. From this they spread their tendrils outwards, increasing in volume and intensity all, so that by the climactic point the listener has the effect of diving head first into waves of euphoric, distorted sound. The single Ruins, reflecting on a legacy in near collapse, has that effect, serious in tone but powerful in execution, Brown’s drumming ideally paced.
The more ambitious tracks fall just shy of ten minutes but feel shorter, having grown organically without repeating themselves. Their intensity builds in a compelling and inevitable way, and the moments of release – often two-thirds of the way through – are genuinely thrilling. Yet the shorter tracks should not be overlooked, especially the higher guitars of Convalescence.
The natural portraits are engrossing. Distant Reflection is initially sombre but takes on a wonder at its surroundings. This is helped by the singing bowls of Sally Blyth, a sound practitioner who finds just the right tone at the start, Brown’s drums sensitively picking up the pace afterwards. Even when the music peaks, with drum rolls and a wall of guitar sound, the tolling of the bowls can still be heard. Echoes Of Solitude considers the plight of the lonely whale through the saxophone of Martin Archer, whose phrases are thoughtfully managed – definitely a case of less is more.
Does it all work?
It does. The seven tracks have a similar profile in terms of the build of their intensity, but they paint very different portraits. Repeated listening is recommended, since it reveals more of the detail the band work into their music, all the while keeping it unified and pressing forward.
Is it recommended?
It is. If you – like me – had not encountered the music of Gilmore Trail before, rich rewards await. Fans of Explosions In The Sky or Mogwai should not hesitate – making a new acquaintance like this is a no-brainer.
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