London’s 52 Commercial Road have now released three excellent albums in a row. Communion, which is comprised of songs from and inspired by the film of the same name, is their best to date. We suspect that this intricate, moody and ultimately uplifting music elevates the movie to a higher level, especially given the plot: a priest and a punk in search of retribution. Screenings and DVD pre-sales have increased media attention; when the film is released this November (Vimeo VOD), the world will finally have its opportunity to weigh in.
But for now we have the soundtrack, which does not need accompanying visuals in order to be effective. In fact, this turns out to be one of the best post-rock releases in recent memory. It doesn’t sound like revenge; it sounds like catharsis, the oft-used word that seldom finds fruition. The album explores the dark night of the soul, but emerges into bliss. The key to its success is its aversion to repetition. Whether varying instrumentation, tempos or track lengths, the band creates an atmosphere in which anything can happen, demonstrating a love for the album as album rather than a series of tracks.
The slow trumpet, fast guitar and mid-speed glockenspiel of “Midnight Mass” might be considered “churchlike” even without the designation. The emotional effect: creating the highest of hopes, an ideal to which one might aspire. All three elements disappear on the subsequent track. The acoustic guitar is replaced by the electric, and electronics winnow their way through the pews. This contrast creates a pleasant sonic tension, a pairing of opposites akin to that of temptation and indifference: a smaller drama than that of good and evil, but more effective as a result. By the third track, one does not expect to hear a piano; but then again, one is not surprised ~ and when strings make their first appearance on “Parades”, the listener is enthralled. The album’s first huge crescendo also appears on “Parades”, and the trio is complimented on its ability to hold off for so long.
Did the film require a 20-minute closer, or was 52 Commercial Road simply ambitious? Either way, it’s a gamble that pays off. “Hypostasis” (defined online as “the substance, essence or underlying reality”) intimates a deeper spirituality than religion alone can afford. A slow, mournful trumpet becomes quicker and more persistent as the track progresses, exuding a western flavor similar to that of U.K. band Troubles. But it all implodes at 10:15, yielding to a contemplative stretch that sounds like an epiphany. Lest they leave us so unsatisfied, 52 Commercial Road builds once more to a full and satisfying conclusion, followed by silence and a soothing coda. The spirit is cleansed through music, a sonic communion that reflects its title and inspiration. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 11 November