I confess that I’d never heard of Katia & Marielle Labeque’s Minimalist Dream House, but apart from being two acclaimed pianists, it seems that the aforementioned Katia and Merielle were the ones who invited the three musicians behind this work to join them when they played three nights in London in 2011. The three musicians who formed Triple Sun are massively experienced and between them have backgrounds in classical music, avant-garde and rock as well as composition and sound production. With all this armoury, “The City Lies in Ruins” sounded intriguing before I’d even heard a note of it.
It does not disappoint. “The City Lies in Ruins” is a hypnotic experience, in which we are taken from one musical soundscape to the next. “A Hole in the Sky” starts in a minimalist way, with a quiet and haunting backdrop with Eastern tinges. A barely sung yet not spoken narrator of lyrics emits words which evoke mystical lands and psychedelia. The guitar creeps up and builds up power in a post-rock way like a momentous ascent of natural forces. Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree … I can draw comparisons but this magical land is that of a trio of musician that I’d not heard of before. Sound waves pass through the deep post-rock “Moses”. Mantra-like in some ways, ambient rock in others, there’s a disturbing vocal sample. The deep “Moses” suggests hardship and threat, enhanced by the Leonard Cohen come Tiamat-style monologue. Expanse has taken over from minimalism now. Church bells ring and there is a melee of babbling voices, which turn into a drum beat announcing the moody “There are Weapons”. What makes this special is its layers of atmosphere. The guitarist plays an evocative tune and the drum beats softly. There’s a fluty sound in the background. It’s like a beating heart. Cymbals shimmer and carefully conveyed guitar sounds convey a dark and misty world. “Building an Ark” swings to and fro as it progresses on its patient course. Cosmic sounds surround it. “The Gift” emphasises the melancholy which runs through this whole album, but amid the gloom there is engaging richness and beauty. “The Gift” is haunting but eventually breaks out into a swirling kaleidoscope of rock-driven sounds, which reinforce the constantly powerful atmosphere. “How does it feel to be one of the last human beings?” are the words to introduce “A Spell”. After a quiet introduction, the mood turns to doom with an accompanying chorus. It stops and the dripping tap minimalism returns. Yet the guitar is lush. Triple Sun’s touches are all in keeping with the mood and the colours which are in their gloomy world. All that is left is the tale of the city that is left in ruins. Trudgingly monotone and sleepy, the narrator’s vivid words about loneliness are uttered once more in the style of Leonard Cohen. Yet there is colour in the expressions of the guitar and the constancy of the drum. It’s this quality of expression which makes this work so interesting.
The parts which make up Triple Sun are great, but the sum of them is even greater. “The City Lies in Ruins” is a masterclass of musicianship, but above all this is one of the most ambiently beautiful and evocative albums I have heard in a long while.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)