Wrekmeister Harmonies face the darkness before the dawn on We Love to Look at the Carnage | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Wrekmeister Harmonies face the darkness before the dawn on We Love to Look at the Carnage 

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click to enlarge Wrekmeister Harmonies

Wrekmeister Harmonies

Courtesy the Artist

Enigmatic former Chicagoans Wrekmeister Harmonies wrote their seventh full-length, We Love to Look at the Carnage (Thrill Jockey), in a cold, isolated farmhouse in upstate New York and recorded it in Brooklyn the following summer with producer Martin Bisi. This time around, the core duo of J.R. Robinson and Esther Shaw added insightful, versatile percussionist Thor Harris (Swans, Shearwater) and confrontational, challenging electronicist Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu). Neither of these musicians is a stranger to the trevails of laying oneself open in dark and challenging work, which makes them perfect collaborators for an album whose loose concept has to do with the late hours that start well after midnight and end before dawn. We Love to Look at the Carnage is subtler and more restrained than some of Wrekmeister’s heavier records, such as 2016’s Light Falls. On these tracks, Robinson’s voice narrates a struggle against breakdown moment by moment, with clenched-jaw determination (think Nick Cave with more self-control or David Tibet with less). The band create a thick and spiky environment in which to nestle: the way Shaw’s violin and Harris’s percussion adorn the churning riffs of “The Rat Catcher” adds grace to the horror-inducing inevitability of time passing and sweeping people away. The sepulchral windswept echoes of “The Coyotes of Central Park” give a rapt tenderness to a heavy lullaby evoking nature’s reclamation of human spaces. On their Facebook page, Wrekmeister Harmonies describe their sound as “pastoral doom,” and here that’s apt. This album is pastoral in both senses of the word: it’s spacious enough to reflect the peace and the terror of the countryside, and it can also conjure visions of rogue clergy ministering to flocks of parishioners whose desperation has sent them in search of salvation.   v

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