Monday, October 31, 2011

Slave Ambient - The War On Drugs (CMG Review)

Slave Ambient

The War On Drugs
Secretly Canadian.

CMG Rating: 80%
SCQ Rating: 80%

Kurt Vile leaving the War on Drugs wasn’t only one of the most amicable splits in indie rock history, it was probably among the least noteworthy as well. Besides Vile and War On Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel being longtime friends, their working relationship remains largely oriented around backing each other’s pursuits on the tour circuit. Recently Granduciel has been playing in Vile’s live band, perhaps as a way of returning the favor of Vile’s contributions toward his band’s early successes. If that back-scratching rapport reads as particularly dull amid the more scandalous beefs nowadays, at least it illustrates the two songwriters’ catalogs as separate planets sharing the same inspired atmosphere.

Nothing thrived on that utopian partnership better than Wagonwheel Blues (2008), a full-length that primed Vile for a successful solo career and greased the subsequent tendency for journalists to ponder fictitious futures of the War on Drugs “post-Vile.” Please. As if Granduciel being the brainchild behind that excellent debut wasn’t enough, let Slave Ambient put to rest the notion that Kurt Vile’s ghost is in some way haunting the War on Drugs.

If my fingers felt irresponsible enough to spin such reactionary insights on the spur of the moment, I’d say quite the opposite: that the War on Drugs might someday haunt Kurt Vile. The opening couplet alone, “Best Night” and a re-imagined take on Future Weather track “Brothers,” fills the same all-encompassing production championed on Smoke Ring For My Halo with full-blooded arrangements. Both tracks belie the highway-weary delivery of Granduciel by dealing in saturated melodies and relentless rhythms that would swagger had the band felt like aiming for radio airplay. But it’s the extended jam on the first track, delving into a chasm of echoed acoustics, twinkling ivories, and a mournful horn in the background that marginalizes Vile’s mirror-on-couch introspection, proving the band’s readiness to go abyss-diving without forgetting the pop hooks at the root of all this delicately entwined instrumentation.

Read the rest of the review over at CMG.

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