Liturgy, Sannhet, Horse Lords | Subterranean | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Fri., April 10, 9 p.m. 2015
Price: $12, $10 in advance
Liturgy may be standing on the shoulders of black metal, but their heads are somewhere else entirely—in a dazzling, fractal utopia where art and philosophy redeem all human suffering. With the new The Ark Work (Thrill Jockey), this New York-based quartet (bassist Tyler Dusenbury and drummer Greg Fox rejoined guitarist Bernard Gann and founder Hunter Hunt-Hendrix in 2014) have made the most ambitious album of their career—and one of the grandest, strangest artistic statements I’ve heard in years. Tremolo-picked guitars, blastbeats, and Liturgy’s distinctive surging-and-rupturing “burst beats” all remain, but only as one incandescent shell in a blooming supernova. Hunt-Hendrix’s vocals abandon black-metal shrieking entirely, instead splitting the difference between liturgical chant and triplet-flow southern rap. This monumentally vast music seethes with microscopic pulsations, and feels like both an ecstatic ritual and a solemn ceremony. It draws upon medieval sacred music, Viennese late Romanticism, and minimalism, among many other things—the last manifests itself especially in stately, phasing cellular rhythms and moire-pattern shifts between duple and triple subdivisions. Liturgy inflect this gonzo synthesis with the literally synthetic: heavily processed vocals, trap-influenced electronic beats, digital flutters that augment the drumming, clipped samples of crowd noise, glitchy editing that sometimes sounds like a CD skipping, and layers of synthetic horns, bagpipes, strings, and harpsichord (on top of real horns and pipes). The Ark Work thrums with several kinds of tension—unmetered or accelerating drums pull against steady rhythms, and a rooted pitch center is destabilized by a huge shifting halo of microtonally weaving drones (played by guitars, glockenspiels, and uncountable layers of less identifiable voices) that often don’t seem to exist in any key. Even repeated patterns—the closest thing to riffs on the record—are frequently structured eccentrically, so it’s hard to grasp time signatures or locate the beginning of each cycle. This creates a feeling not of forward motion or drive toward a climax or conclusion, but rather of suspension and expansion: you have to stretch your brain just to take it all in. I’d like to see how Liturgy accomplish this onstage with two guitars, bass, and drums—Hunt-Hendrix uses a MIDI interface on his guitar and runs his vocals through a laptop, which seems like a good start, but the band could really use another couple dozen people. —Philip Montoro
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