April 3, 2008

gregor samsa - 52.12

Artist: gregor samsa
Album: 52.12
Year: 2006
Genre:Post - Rock,Shoegaze,Ambient

Despite their name, Gregor Samsa are actually a quartet based in Virginia, taking their name from Franz Kafka's book "The Metamorphosis" - perhaps reflecting the fact that their sound is far removed from that of the majority of post-rock groups. The title of their first full-length release is similarly misleading, as 55:12 clocks in at just over 50 minutes - although, curiously, their 2nd EP "27:36" did last precisely 27 minutes and 36 seconds.

Comparisons with bands such as Low will be obvious given the male/female singer combination and band motto "slow and sad. Slow and happy. But never fast and anything," an adage they adhere to religiously throughout 55:12. In the album opener "Makeshift Shelters," the delicate vocals of Champ Bennet and Nikki King emerge from the swirling distortion in a song with a distinct shoegaze feel to it. However, the post-rock side to the band soon becomes apparent in the second song, "Even Numbers," the longest track and one of the highlights of the album. A seemingly unrelenting, minimalist guitar-led intro suddenly erupts into a Mogwai-esque wall of sound, with a full four minutes passing before vocals begin. "These Points Balance" is another stand-out song, largely reminiscent of Sigur Ros. A wonderfully atmospheric, almost funereal piece, it exemplifies the talents of King and Bennett with gently intertwining vocals taking center stage. Perhaps the finest song on the album, "Young and Old" begins with a guitar chiming in the manner of This Will Destroy You or Explosions in the Sky, before the appearance of vocals which in turn give way to an instrumental crescendo of which even Godspeed You! Black Emperor would undoubtedly be proud.
55:12 is by no stretch of the imagination a happy album, and those looking to cheer themselves up should perhaps look elsewhere. Similarly, Gregor Samsa are not the band to turn to if up-tempo post-rock is your scene. However, underestimate them at your peril - with 55:12, Gregor Samsa have created a majestic piece of work: undoubtedly sombre, unwaveringly slow, yet a masterpiece in the true sense of the word nonetheless.
(Richard White from thesilentballet.com)


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