Guardian Alien, See the World Given to a One Love Entity
Um. Whoa. I just finished listening to Guardian Alien’s new full-length, See the World Given to a One Love Entity, and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, to the point where my head’s still spinning somewhat. Give me a second to collect my thoughts, here.
Okay, so first things first: yes, this album is all one 37-minute-long track, with no breaks, no side changes, none of that. Holy shit. It just keeps going and going and going and going, sucking you in deeper and deeper and hypnotizing you while it goes, before it finally crumbles and vanishes into thin air, and you’re left sitting here — like I am — trying to make sense of it all.
Maybe there’s no point to making sense of it, though, not really. I mean, there’s some kind of concept behind it, tied to a vision/experience/whatever drummer and bandleader Greg Fox (whose name you might recognize from post-metal heroes Liturgy and Baltimore crazy people Teeth Mountain) had of a Rastafarian alien in a tracksuit giving him the album, but I have no idea what to make of that, which means there’s nowhere to even start if you want to look at this thing from some sort of “this is what this means, this is what that means” perspective.
So screw it. Message or story or meaning aside, there’s still the music, and it’s truly, truly formidable. I don’t mean just that it’s long — it is, but I honestly never got bored, and was actually ready for it to keep rolling when it faded away — but rather that it’s so ear- and head-fillingly dense that it’s practically got mass all of its own.
It starts off innocently enough, with bucolic bird noises and the sound of footsteps on the forest floor, so quiet and pseudo-electronic that you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re listening to a Four Tet track. Then it explodes, however, into a bombastic, Parts & Labor-esque rush of triple-speed drums, thick-sounding, pseudo-prog guitars, feedback, and hazy, psych-rock vocals chanting lyrics I can’t really understand (something about birds, maybe?). That’s when my head starts to spin.
And for nearly forty minutes, that doesn’t change, even as the “song” definitely does. It slowly morphs into a Middle Eastern-sounding motif, with lots of complex, clicking percussion and droney, sitar-like guitars that get steadily wilder and wilder and noisier and noisier. The effect is somewhat like The Polyphonic Spree if they cut loose their collective tether and drifted upwards towards the bright, welcoming sun overhead — and hey, the comparison makes some sense, considering that Guardian Alien is itself the same kind of supergroup-type band of folks who play in lots of other bands.
The next “movement” of the piece is quieter and more delicate, but still fairly densely layered, never even approaching anything minimal; it pulls together beds of synths, bird sounds, a goat(?) bleating, soft chimes being played, and what I think is Tuvan throatsinging. Just as you’re wondering where the album will go next, it dives back into the noise-rock realm, pummeling away at your ears (in a good way) in an almost Primal Scream-like fashion until the whole thing collapses and dies.
As talented as the rest of the band is (and they are), though, Fox’s drumming is the definite star here. He keeps a semi-solid footing beneath the music but still shifts and mutates the beat like the best jazz drumming you’ve never heard — one minute he’s doing a complicated, almost tabla-like pattern, and the next he’s pounding heavily like he’s trying to knock the walls down.
See the World Given to a One Love Entity isn’t strictly an instrumental, but other than an Underworld-esque repeated bit in the middle of the big, long track, it may as well be, because while I can hear words, I can’t understand any of ‘em. Which, again, may not be the point anyway. The vocals actually remind me more of Dead Can Dance than anything else — it’s less about what words may or may not be floating in there and more about the overall sound the voice/voices make.
So even after typing the above, my head’s still spinning, really; there’s a lot going on in See the World Given to a One Love Entity, and I’m still trying to process it all, without the benefit of a piece of music being broken up into chunks. What does it mean? No idea. Whatever it’s about, though, it’s completely mesmerizing; there’s just something about this that grabs hold of you and refuses to let go.
(Feature photo by Rebecca Smeyne.)