When doing online research for this band, a slight misspell takes you to an obscure Hungarian film which certainly has nothing to do with this review! Spelling corrected (where is your editor when you need him?!) brings you to Wrekmeister Harmonies, a musical collective led by the visionary J.R. Robinson. Described as a shape-shifting drone, out-rock and extreme metal collective, they started in 2006 by performing and recording long pieces of music in museums, mausoleums and impressive public spaces. Later, three albums came in quick succession, You’ve Meant So Much to Me (2013), Then it all Comes Down (2014) and Night of Ascension (2015).
And now a fourth. For this release master collaborator Robinson chose new methods by focusing on a smaller collective, with himself Ester Shaw and God Speed You! Black Emperor members Thierry Amar, Sophie Trudeau and Timothy Herzog. The title Light Falls originates from the text of If this is Man by Primo Levi, a mediation on the year he spent as an inmate of Auschwitz that suggests that inhumanity comes about when things change slowly and people begin to accept the things they would normally find reprehensible. Strong stuff, Robinson wanting to “sonically convey the idea of slow creeping change… When I came up with the title I was thinking of how when daylight turns to night time, it’s a gradual process you are lulled into watching this slow peaceful sunset but then all of a sudden you look up and it is dark”.
The music appears to achieve this feeling of slow and gradual change, often through drones but with subtle shifts throughout to an almost full-on metal feel. The first three tracks form the Light Falls Suite which demonstrates this well, opener The Mantra begins with a quiet introduction of acoustic guitar with organ accompaniment before J.R. starts intoning the phrase “stay in, go out, get sick, get well, light falls”. The music evolves, the instruments developing the changes in pace, but slowly and almost unnoticed to its climax with violin which segues into The Light Bur which has a harder edge, guitar and drums pushing things along and giving the song a menacing feel. Underneath the violin continues to make additions to the sound. The third part, Light Stick, is initially calmer after part two, keyboards providing the soothing change. Again subtle movements are made, the violin added here and there, before at around three and a half minutes the guitars and drums crash in changing the focus and driving the song to a heavier finish.
Where Have You Been My Lovely Son is a very personal one for J.R., about the “disintegration of a relationship that I had with my son’s mother; my son and I had a really intense close relationship and as a result of this break up I have lost that connection. There has been a lot of difficulty and uncomfortable moments, so it was a personal message to my son”. The song has an almost sad feel, the music reflecting what has been lost and J.R.’s vocals supporting that overall atmosphere. As the song comes to a close it moves straight into the harshest track on the album, Some Were Saved Some Drowned, which is full of anger. Here the guitar and drums drive the song with the lyrics delivered with anger, but just audible under this the violin continues to make the melody felt.
The overall feel of Light Falls does give the impression of slow change, at times it may feel bleak and at others more positive. It will draw you in, and then surprise you with its subtle changes of direction when you become aware of what you have heard. There are also moments that are very in your face, as on Some Were Saved Some Drowned. After several listens I have realised there is more to this album than first appears, repeated plays give rewards. If you get a chance to hear it, do so. It may not be your usual fare but it is certainly worthy of investigation.
01. Light Falls I – The Mantra (7:30)
02. Light Falls II – The Light Bur (8:26)
03. Light Falls III – Light Stick (7:32)
04. The Gathering (8:08)
05. Where Have You Been My Lovely Son (7:44)
06. Some Where Saved Some Drowned (7:36)
07. My Lovely Son Reprise (2:44)
Total time – 49:40
J.R. Robinson – Vocal & Guitar
Ester Shaw – Keyboards, Piano, Violin, Vocals
Thierry Amar – Bass & Contrabass
Sophie Trudeau – Piano, Violin, Vocals
Timothy Herzog – Drums
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 16th September 2016