Sunday, July 4, 2010


Monday, September 15, 2008

It's been a long time between sips form the always-refreshing BoG cup, and this album revives like no other before it. This Culture of Background Noise is the band's first overseas production and, as befitting music of this scale, they've gone straight to the top. With Howard Bilerman (ex-member and producer of Arcade Fire, The Dears, Broken Social Scene etc.) at the controls and Godspeed You! Black Emperor's mainstay Efrim Menuck as assistant producer, the bar was set pretty high. And, in a performance worthy of a Bruce McAvaney voiceover, it's a bloody triumph. From the spacious lyricism of "…in 2050 when we know we'll all be dead anyway" to the heavy and hypnotic highlight Dreaming Is Essential, the fraternal bonds bring forth the goods with nary bum note or false sentiment.

Though likely to be pointlessly branded as post-rock, this album has an across-the-board appeal equalling the likes of their often-compared influences Dirty 3 and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. There is a warmth and freedom here that few bands in this broad category have. Perfect for driving or strolling cities at night, or for turning a trip to the shops into an epic journey through the Olgas, This Culture… is an unmistakably Australian album that it seems fitting was recorded in another vast, mostly empty country celebrated herein by the song Canadia.

The album is littered with examples of the band riding inspiration both improvisational and meticulously determined in a near-impossible balance. The seamless rhythm and mood changes in The Battle of Mont Royal and the use of violin and cello both here and in Canadia are beautiful and sharply judged. The album's centrepiece The Content Is Irrelevant / Life's Little Victories is a journey with such careful variations of mood it's hard to think of another band that could pull it off. Sometimes you wish for guitarist Reuben Stanton to let the chords ring just a little longer, to let the atmospheres he creates linger just a little, but the band, maybe mindful of the cost of two-inch tape (audibly unspooling at the end of Tape-Recursion) or without time to relax with their new company (the album was recorded in several days) don't leave as much space as you may expect. This is a minor quibble though, especially as these songs could clearly be different with each rendition. Seeing them return to these songs at the album's forthcoming launch should be a fascinating, compelling and loud experience.

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