Sunday, May 25, 2014

Encircling sea - Écru

Genre : Post-black metal / Sludge
Release : June 26th 2010 on An Out Recordings.

You probably understood I'm especially loving Encircling sea from my review of A forgotten land, their last album, released late 2012. Well, let's go back in time once more to dig this 1-track album, Écru. Before anything else, quick reminder : you can play the track right here and even download it for free, like any other Encircling sea's album. Good guys you say? Awesome ones I say. Now back to my review. Usually, I'm quite reluctant to check out 1-track albums, you know. I'm often thinking they're slow to start, that they have mostly boring unending intros... Not that I dislike ambient music, or this blog wouldn't exist anyway, it's just that most of those long tracks are artificially built up with many wasted minutes just to make them long. Well, it depends on the state of mind you're on, I guess : full atmospheric tracks can also hit a certain spot if you're in the right mood.

However, Écru starts especially quickly for such a kind of track. The first 3 minutes are enough for you to get a full palette of the sounds it features : cold ambient guitars, post-rocking tremolos, sludgy atmospheres, raging black metal... Obviously, the track quickly grasps the listener, and it doesn't let go. Still, by that time, black metal was not a major part of Encircling sea's performance, and after a 3 minutes more blast, Écru returns with its main atmosphere : heavily delayed, sludgy, almost droning guitars, with slow, crushing drumming. Yeah, if you're here hoping for 37 minutes of straight black metal, you can already stop your listen and go back to something else or you'll quickly get disappointed. Less black metal than on A forgotten land for sure, and no acoustic folk parts either, but the ethereal female vocals by Ramanee, Rob's wife, are already striking with their beauty and perfectly fit the track. Not for long though, and the track gets more and more instrumental as time flies, the last third having no vocals at all. Few black metal, not a hint of folk and no vocals? Yes, but Écru is nonetheless a masterpiece when it comes to atmosphere. Instead of nature and wild, wide open spaces, there's a more claustrophobic tune in this track, something I'd call far darker and gloomier. Those vibrating guitars, echoing in the night, from around 12 minutes or 24 minutes,  are your atmospheric parts here. Such ones, although really minimalistic, are perfectly integrated and help making a 37 minutes long track a success if you ask me. Écru is wavering all the time, not only in its playing style with its strong guitars' delays, but also in its songwriting, with its perfect balance between aggressivity, darkness, melancholy and contemplation. Of course, you don't have to be in a hurry to get the whole thing and appreciate it, it's still one huge track with long parts close-minded people will call "boring".

I can easily see Écru split into three tracks at time marks 11:38 and 24:40. First one would be your most traditional part, with a good punch of black metal to knock you down. Second one would be your coma and the embracing darkness. As for the third, it'd be the slow return to consciousness. Maybe it would make Écru an easier listen, but seeing how Rob Allen tends to work, I'm not sure it was intended to be one, nor it will ever be. And that's probably even better this way, as Encircling sea's music is more about conceptual songwriting and thinkful atmospheres. As for Écru, it's still my favorite listen at sunset. Listening to it without switching any lights on and slowly going towards darkness is truly a moving experience. But anycase, listening to it as it is already is a moving experience.

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Other reviews from Encircling sea:

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