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Belong - October Language

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Artist: Belong

Album: October Language

Label: Carpark

Review date: Feb. 13, 2006


If you've spent time tuned to a distant radio station, struggling to make music out of the scratch and hiss of static, then you know already what it's like to listen to Belong's October Language. Tense, expectant, on the verge of understanding, you submerge yourself in streams of long notes swathed in static, slow moving processions of sounds, each element disappearing just before you get a clear glimpse of it. The melancholic aura, the overtones, the fuzzy-edged mystery is reminiscent of William Basinski's Disintegration Loops, and like them, October Language is meant to evoke decay, but it could just as easily represent birth, with nearly endless possibilities unfolding from each shape-shifting note.

Belong is a duo, whose members Turk Dietrich and Michael Jones nominally play instruments like guitar and synthesizers, but really reserve their creative energy for distorting and transforming those sounds in the recording process. Like Growing, they treat the notes as raw materials, the wherewithal to launch symphonic storms of altered tones. (Growing will, in fact, set down their instruments for extended periods during shows, while the two of them manipulate the sound coming out of the amplifiers.) So, there is an inhuman quality to cuts like "Who Told You This Room Exists"; itís hard to decipher which instrument is emanating these ebbing clouds of vibrating sound or what was done to make them sound the way they do. Yet the cut is undeniably beautiful, oblique and evocative at the same time.

The title cut is perhaps the high point here, bright shards of melody slipping in and out of billowing hiss. You can hear a bit of steel guitar in the background here, played slowly and majestically against an oceanic hum. There, aided on this track by Joshua Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv (Dietrich's partner in remixing NIN's "The Fragile"), Belong arches almost into the slow organic atmospherics of Friends of Dean Martinez. Yet this recognizable sound, too, disappears into the mysterious background, fading like a mirage that you're not sure you ever saw.

Much has been made of the fact that October Language was recorded in New Orleans almost exactly a year before the hurricane that engulfed that city. No doubt there's a sense of loss in these tracks, and no doubt it recalls the way that the ghosts of 9/11 permeated Basinski's Disintegration Loops. Still, it would be a mistake to tie its melancholy too closely to any specific historical event. These are lines that everyone can color in differently, depending on where they've been and what they've left behind along the way.

By Jennifer Kelly

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