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Guardian Alien - See the World Given to a One Love Entity

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Artist: Guardian Alien

Album: See the World Given to a One Love Entity

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Jul. 19, 2012

Greg Fox left Liturgy in September of 2011, about the same time the band and its frontman Hunter Hunt-Hendrix got caught in a shit-storm of black metal purist backlash for, among other things, embracing the transcendent (and, er, slipping long passages from Marcus Aurelius into online interviews). With Guardian Alien, Fox plunges even farther toward gnostic psychedelia, alternating blistering intervals of top-speed kit rolls with woozy altered voice epiphanies and quieter found sound intervals of bird song, sheep bleating and gongs.

Guardian Alien’s is the second album of mostly drumming from Thrill Jockey in the last few months, and though it reaches for the same unlikely serenity through pummeling as Man Forever’s Pansophical Cataract, it does so in a wholly different way. Where Man Forever is austere and rigorous in its consideration of the extended drum roll, See the World Given to a One Love Entity allows its percussive energy to ebb, flow, flower and crescendo. Man Forever repeats a mantra. Guardian Alien explores a series of landscapes. There is a great deal of change in this single 37-minute track, a sense almost of movements within its larger structure.

Guardian Alien is not really a solo project. Fox now has a regular band — singer Alex Drewchin (who also plays synthesizer), Turner Williams Jr. on a tone-bending shahi baaja, Liturgy band mate Bernard Gann playing 1960s-jamming electric guitar and Eli Winograd on bass — who add depth and diversity to this extended experiment in percussive ecstasy.

The album begins in a quiet chitter of bird song, a half-minute that evokes sun-drenched meadows full of avian and insect life. A brief flourish of glassy, non-Western strumming (that’s Williams’s shahi baaja, a form of electric zither) intervenes, and then Fox begins his ferocious drum roll, a barrage of notes too rapid to differentiate that becomes the spine of the entire endeavor. Over the course of the track, Fox surges, ebbs, crescendos, dies back to nothing and returns in heady triumph. He moves rapidly, intricately, through patterns of tonal tom toms, abrasive snare, the click and echo of rims, in a way that suggests not geometry but the curves and irregularities of living things. It is almost (but not quite) fair to say that he never stops. Even in the album’s quieter moments — a trippy, multi-voiced psychedelic episode that recalls Olivia Tremor Control; a prism-splintered onslaught of guitar sounds that evokes Ecstatic Sunshine — Fox’s drums clatter along.

Guardian Alien is very different from Liturgy, its vocals softer and more melodic, its guitar (and shahi baaja) sounds bent toward drone and overtone rather than aggressive attack. Yet, both bands seem to use music as a portal to understanding things that can’t readily be articulated. See the World Given to a One Love Entity transforms intensity into a kind of vibrating serenity, its pulverizing drums turning into a sound as calming as the ocean’s roar.

By Jennifer Kelly

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