Read and Listen: Into Orbit & Agents of Dreamland
Listen with your eyes and read with your ears. Or if you want to actually enjoy both of these delights, maybe ignore that advice.
They sound like stories you’ve heard before. At least they start that way. The Russian Circles brand of post-rock and the cliché scene in a scummy diner as part of a noir story. A scratchy-but-melodic guitar tone over a pulsating rhythm. One agent turns over his evidence while the other holds hers back a little longer. The mood-setting riff takes an occasional backseat to something more progressive. She wants to make sure the information trade is fair; she knows it isn’t, but what other option is there?
And while these concepts are familiar, they don’t necessarily imply what is to come. Any range of textures can be applied to a stock, and both Unearthing and Agents of Dreamland go for something … alien. A metallic/organic tone permeates Into Orbit’s sound, taking it beyond the often-used space theme and directly onto another planet. Terra firma, but not ours. Space plays a small part in Caitlin R. Kiernan’s master plan as well, but only as a means to begin the merging of worlds. A century of hints, as seen by Immacolata and later understood by the Signalman, are just foreshadowing for the spores to come. In the realm of secret bureaucracies, the stakes are the existence of humanity and the recognition is nil. Unearthing, after you read one brief but haunting passage in the middle, could be a perfect name for both works.
Ritual is the key to all of this. A complete mastering of tone and texture. Longer songs like “Stone Circles” and “Equilibrium” allow for moments of pure reflection, a place for dark thoughts before getting back to the riff-heavy work that must be done. It’s the transition that we look forward to. Chloe gets caught up in this cult of transition. By letting hard drugs wear down her sense of self, it’s easy to see how the captivating nonsense spewed by Drew Standish (or is it nonsense?) would give life a purpose again. Basking in the sun, listening for signal in the static, and nurturing your vessel are the tenants in the black book that no one (but Drew) is allowed to read.
This New Zealand-based duo is just as secretive about their purpose (with no voice provided), but you don’t have to listen for long to know that it is all signal.The structures are fluid; no section runs too long, but are long enough to get you hooked on the groove. The star winds are audible in the recording. The Signalman cares not about the prophecies. Maybe once, in his early years of his thankless job, he took interest in what he thought was static, but those days are long gone. These days, J&B Whisky and retirement seem to be his focus, at least until he witnesses an unthinkable horror. His mistake is believing that just because there is unending static in this shitty world, there is no signal at all.
Both novella (~120 pages) and LP (~41 minutes) are shorter than they need to be, in that they lay the groundwork for an epic story to be told, but don’t even come close to wearing out their welcome. However, their brevity seems to be core to their intrigue. The plot, as interesting as it may be, is secondary to the fantastic prose that uniquely combines noir and sci-fi. Into Orbit, I was happy to hear, has a grasp on a personal voice in the muddy genre of instrumental post-rock, and I hope to see them jump out from the pack.