En‘s City of Brides travels a long way before it ends. While incorporating elements of ambient, drone, and electronic music, it’s a sonic mélange that works. The third album from Maxwell August Croy and James Devane, it exudes some of that hazy Bay Area vibe: the fog giving way to sun, the tide receding and returning.
For pure sonic fuzz, check the last minute of “Blades”, which comes across like a sunspot or a damaged disc. Confident guitars and synthesizers continue to play, undismayed. But when it collapses – suddenly and completely – it leaves room for the entry of the kota. One might call such a transition metaphorical, but it also works on the physical level, setting purity and distortion in opposite corners to see how they interact. Over the course of the album, their careful courtship ~ forces aligning rather than destroying ~ settles into a peaceful sheen.
This is not to say that the album is sedate. Every calm selection (the slowly encroaching shoegaze of “Blonde Is Back”; the static, kota and chime of “Awkward Paws”), has a louder counterpart. The nine-minute “Mendocino Nature Rave” is Petrels-esque in construction, growing from humble origins to an all-out synth swirl, while the equally long “Secret Samba” takes a similar path to its declarative destination. The title track ties it all together, with light clangs leading to a holy resolution.
The overall feeling is one of temple meditation. Yet this is no placid temple; instead, it’s a place in which dark forces impinge and attempt to impede. One can hear the tension in the grooves, almost enough to make the needle jump. But other forces are there as well, called by different names in different traditions. The outcome is never in doubt, but its reassuring to hear the struggle being recognized. (Richard Allen)