Echoes From The Past 01 – Grun – Greenland
In the first of a new series of articles featuring albums that perhaps flew under the radar when released but we think retrospectively deserve more consideration, Gilbert Potts looks back at Grün‘s ‘Greenland’.
‘Greenland’ was released just before the flood of progressive and experimental records that marked 2011 as a high point in Australian instrumental music. A brief glance at the credentials of founders Leon Kelly and Andre Matkovic tell you they are a pair of formally educated musicians and composers with a bag of film and theatre scores, and previous bands, under their belts (or bowler hats as the case may be). A listen or ten of the record tells you this is up there with the better instrumental compositions you will hear.
Although rooted more in indie rock, classical and jazz influences than the metal riffs and chugging guitar of fellow Sydney-siders sleepmakeswaves and Meniscus, it’s not without its searing bursts of ray-gun guitar and electronic noise blankets. Think ‘The End of the Ocean’ and you’re getting closer. There’s great variety of sounds between songs, although not within the songs to the extent of some of its contemporaries. What we get instead of those vertical slices and dynamics is thick layers of sound that tend to walk along at a steady pace rather than scuttle around here and there. A bit more tortoise than hare, but don’t think the tortoise doesn’t get a bit loud now and then.
What this all adds up to is an instrumental record with the confidence to pick a theme and style for each song and stick with it. Instead of ten minute tracks made up of three or more parts, most tracks are between four and five minutes that are kept simple in theme if not detail.
An example of that detail is in the fine ‘A UFO Stole My Sea Lion’, with its part Hawaiian/part country guitar that snowballs into a giant wire ball that suddenly includes what could be a sitar and barking sea lion.
Then there is the slowly building psych reverb of ‘Custard’ that becomes recognisably post-rock arpeggio, bouncing along with short bursts of melody, soaring rock riffs and a shoegaze full stop. ‘Common Seabirds’ and ‘Hasina’ are beautifully piano led, the former leading to some good loud and distorted guitar.
Three beautiful tracks include vocals from Katy Wren who co-wrote them. Each is very different not only in feel but in the way Wren sings, from the laid back jazzy feel of ‘The Fool’ to the mechanical repetition of ‘Use Your Tears’ and the wonderful ‘Imperfect’, probably the song of the record. Again, it’s that variation between songs that makes this record interesting and worth listening to time and again.
There is a tendency for repeating phrases in some songs that could get monotonous, but Grün has a good instinct for when it’s time to move on. Some tracks don’t go where you expect them to at times, and there are few hooks that will rattle around in your head, ensuring longevity.
One thing I’ve not seen before is that Grün has changed the song order of the digital download from the CD, except the final track. Perhaps a few live sets helped them find a better order, and having streamed the online version a few times and listened to the CD, I prefer the Bandcamp version. I would recommend the CD, however, because it includes their earlier EP which is not only worth having in itself, but because it tracks the evolution of their sound.
Lovers of long, intense and epic instrumental tracks won’t find that sound here, but neither is it a loud highlights package of post-rock’s finest crescendos, or simply ambient background music. ‘Greenland’ is a tale of contrast. It’s light but not shallow, dark but not depressing, accessible but alternative. It delves into the earlier influences of post-rock while pointing to the future of instrumental music. Give it a listen.
Out now through Bandcamp
Posted by Gilbert Potts
Tags: album review, Echoes From The Past, Gilbert Potts, Greenland, Grun