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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
»No Age
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
The Life And Times
The Magician EP
Stiff Slack Records

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

December 4, 2006
That's not water weight The Life And Times is carrying around these days. With its latest release, The Magician EP, Allen Epley's post-Shiner project has grown noticeably heavier - we're speaking in terms of sonic mass here, not pounds of flesh - since its last full-length, the dark, celestial shoegazer epic Suburban Hymns. And yet there's not an ounce of fat on the densely layered guitar blowouts "I Know You Are," "Hush" and "The Sound Of The Ground."

A series of depth charges meant to sink rock mediocrity to the floor of the ocean, these three tracks provide enough shock and awe to wow an audience jaded by similar fireworks displays from Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine, Explosions In The Sky and Mogwai. The slowly evolving supernova known as "Hush" explodes with light, with Epley's soaring vocals and majestic guitars crashing the heavenly gates of Kevin Shields' effects-laden paradise, Loveless. At whatever Mission Control-style studio The Life And Times recorded this Mt. Everest of sound, there must have been a great deal of excitement at coming so close to making actual contact with Shields' otherworldly muse. For Epley followers who've been pining for a return to Shiner's The Egg, this is what you've been waiting for. It's the perfect distillation of The Life And Times' less complicated, more atmospheric approach, and the thick, crushing darkness of Shiner.

Along the same lines, "I Know You Are" is even more devastating, like a city block of some lost civilization on the moon being imploded by Eric Abert's quaking bass, Chris Metcalf's dynamite-packed drum kit and Epley's apocalyptic woodshedding. Likewise, in the closer, "The Sound Of The Ground," all these elements coalesce into a star-crossed dream of brilliant explosions that are destructive and hypnotically beautiful. The melody is repeated over and over again, pounded into the ground as if drilling for black caves lit up with diamonds imbedded into its walls.

That same stuck-on-repeat technique does not work in the more experimental, Pink Floyd-like passage "Killing Them Softly." An icy wonderland of bell-like guitar, harrowing distortion and whistling Moog, "Killing Them Softly" is pretty, but gathers momentum too slowly and crumbles under the weight of its own expectations. The most unusual piece here is "Ave Maria," a heavy-bottomed, ringing rocker that flies along with good velocity, but it feels unfinished and awkward with regard to melody.

A musical lasagna that piles layers of guitar on top of each other, The Magician EP, released on Japan's Stiff Slack Records label, is an astronomer's dream and a demolition expert's fantasy. Whirling, powerful sonic storms collide with dream-like beauty, as if the sirens of the seas are luring you into in the rocks and you know they're there, but you can't help being seduced to your own destruction. Die happy as this trio of magicians pulls off another great illusion.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad



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