All too often, partnerships on split records can often conflict creating as much disharmony as complementary noises. That’s not always a bad thing, as the range of contradicting, experimental connections inside can often portray an intriguing and more complete whole. In this instance, however, there is plenty of concord and, consequently, plenty of opportunity for further exploration. Combined, these two have even managed to play inside the pentagonal borders of what we, the press, might refer to as grunge, shoegaze, drone, post-metal and stoner.
This blissed-out middle-ground is first marked out by the wonderfully-titled Across Tundras, a trio hailing from Tennessee who Cavity Records have described as both “vintage psychedelia” and “panoramic country crush”. The track “Low Haunts”, propped up by an anarchic four-and-a-half minute warbling wash of pedal effects (rather like an orchestra clearing its throat) steps up with a lush, organic kind of Americana that warms the very cockles of your heart. If The Rolling Stones ate mushrooms and space-cake instead of snorting all that coke and speed, they’d have sounded pretty much like this. Hell they even say it themselves. Interesting, then, that the line “Like a rolling stone” pops up in “Crux To Bea” which throws more chugging groove into the mix enabling them to drift into grittier corners. Never static, they eventually tumble into an effusive style of stripped-back, heavy-lidded blues that echo artists like Dan Auberbach and Dead Confederate.
Completing the morphing progression, Illinois-dwelling Lark’s Tongue (their moniker clearly paying homage to King Crimson) head deeper into the cosmos to haul down a droning wall-of-sound backdrop à la Hawkind into which they weave a tapestry of lush melodies à la Slowdive. Haul on the volume for the book-ending chorus of “Follow Your Night” to fully appreciate the obliterating crush and then drop out for complete immersion as the LP’s highlight, “Aluminium”, kicks in. The vocal harmonies locked within are stunningly beautiful and meld serenely into the thunderous riffage that rains down upon the listener.
As a split four-tracker this may, on the face of it, seem like a frivolous purchase, but at 33 minutes it offers pretty good value for money. Honestly, you’d be hard-pressed to find another split as thematically-explorative, emotionally dense and gloriously satisfying as this one.
(8/10 John Skibeat)