Seluah's sophomore release is both thrilling and grounded, with a menacing undertone that pushes the limits of their musical structure and manipulation of sound.
Seluah’s sophomore album Phase III is one that’ll snake around your brain as you sink into its layered sprawling mass of sound. Advertising itself as a psychedelic/noir album, Phase III often restrains itself from the outrageous twists and turns psych music can take. Instead it seems to grasp on to post-punk sensibilities, as demonstrated by the likes of Savages and Merchandise. At only nine tracks long, Seluah meet their quota for timings through five and six minute long tracks that pace patiently along, without rushing.
Opener ‘Experiment in Horror’ sets the tone for the album. It’s slow, creeping drum and guitars are over laden with drawling vocals. Scratch the surface and you’ll find alien sounds lurking just beneath. This leads directly into the incredible ‘Nanon’, with an unusual lead drum beat and minimal use of the guitar, which creates an aura that keeps the listener on the edge for over six minutes. The use of the reverberated guitar gives the ‘Nanon’ a haunting feel, while the drums and bass keep the rhythm of an intense marching track.
One of the highlights of Phase III comes in the form of singer/drummer Edward Grimes. With a voice that is not unlike that of Foal’s front man Yannis Philippakis, it excellently compliments that menacing guitar and bass work. His drums beats are often erratic yet straight, adding flourishes to the music while keeping a beat together tighter than glue.
After the triumphant start to this album, things are brought down to a quieter level on the track ‘Held So High Above Her Head’, which takes the heavy post punk sound to something more mellow. It’s a pleasant deviation from the otherwise dark tracks, and proves that behind the aura of noir mystery, there’s something, not necessarily softer, but more human to Seluah’s work. But this, unfortunately, reveals one of the only flaws with this album; there’s an underlying similarity to many of the tracks.
Not that this makes the tracks bad per se, but the running track layout of underlying drums and bass plus the echo laden guitar and vocals does sometimes border on tiresome. Thankfully, there’s enough detail and precision in the music of Seluah that it compensates for the ever so slightly overused structure. The real redeeming factor comes in final tracks ‘Back to Hell’ and ‘The Killer’ that really give this gritty sound that you’d expect to find in a David Lynch or Quentin Tarantino film. Especially the latter, ‘The Killer’, that combines a harsh title and lyrical themes with gentle, almost tender music, especially with the inclusion of strings.
Overall, Seluah give a gripping, paced album that utilises intricate drum beats and mystifying guitar work to creates a haunting post punk atmosphere. Occasionally Phase III pushes its structure so far that it almost loses its, but Seluah pull it back to give some gripping performances, especially on tracks ‘Nanon’ and ‘The Killer’. This is an album for anyone who likes their prog rock with its feet firmly planted in the ground.
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