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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Black Presence

Rating: 6.9/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Eschewing their traditional sound, the Los Angeles based post-punkers Bluebird bring us Black Presence, their attempt at a concept album dealing with the concept and progression of matter and energy through the various cycles of time and space. As Jim Brown so poetically states in the album's liner notes, "All creation is out of darkness. Before anything there is nothing... The soil is turned. The castle is burned, and the destruction becomes creation... Therefore, the Black Presence is death and life".

And so it is that Bluebird becomes the physicist's band, extending the ambient interludes found on their previous albums - as well as on Frodus' magnificent swan-opus, And We Washed Our Weapons In the Sea - into an album of loosely structured, instrumental, ambient stoner rock. Oddly enough, Shelby Cinca, who fronted Frodus and served a stint in Bluebird as well, is conspicuously absent from Black Presence, not so much as a note played or even his name mentioned in the insert. But it is the heavy, spacey, droning art-rockers of Frodus' later days as well as Bluebird's recent past that are extended here, intros and out-tros unspooled into full songs.

Lush aural landscapes are woven taught with interconnecting layers of sound, guitars and percussion augmented by sparse trumpet squeals and a few looping vibraphone melodies. "Future Burn" is the albums first proper track, and although it features vocals and most don't, it is pretty indicative of the entire album. The bass guitar latches on to a deep, relaxed groove as the guitars meander about above the surface, vocal whispers coming in and out, keyboards and vibes lighting tracers in the sky.

It's a palpable formula, and a refreshing twist in the Bluebird saga, but ultimately Black Presence fails to really make any sort of statement, languishing halfway between distinct, short-lived moments of The Timeout Drawer's A Difficult Future and Mogwai's Come On Die Young. Although a combination of those two albums could be positively breathtaking, it has neither the jazzy confidence of the former nor the sheer weight of the latter. Even on headphones, Dark Presence succeeds best when served up as background music to a drug marathon, and when presented front-and-center it really fails to hold attention, ambient washes like "In the Presence of Opposition, Persistence Prevails" breaking up the more compelling grooves like "Physical Education" with yawn-inducing deliberation. For as much as I wanted this album to grab a hold of me, it just kept slipping through my fingers.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth



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