Release DetailsLABEL At A Loss Recordings
RELEASED ON 9/27/2005
Out Of A Center Which Is Neither Dead Nor Alive
posted on 10/2005 By:
When members of Illinois’ Minsk are asked why they chose to name their band after a city in Belarus (which should happen, oh, just about every single interview for the rest of their lives), they speak about how Minsk seems to be a somewhat mystical city that is located somewhere between the Eastern and Western part of the world; and throughout its history it has endured several wars and been burned and rebuilt several times. These concepts are central not only to the band name but also the artwork and music on their debut album, Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive. The focus of the cover art is an infinity symbol made up of a serpent devouring its tail, and the insert art includes the caption "Death is the Beginning of Life, and Life the Beginning of Death". But aside from being a conceptual match for the material, the cover is also a perfect visual representation of the band’s sound. What is initially perceived as overwhelmingly dense and dark eventually reveals itself to also be ornate and detailed.
They may be recent additions to the pack of Neurosis indebted contemporaries like Isis and Overmars, but Minsk have wasted no time in vaulting amongst the frontrunners of the genre. Out of a Center is a highly developed and artfully crafted album that commands attention. This is one of those albums that will demand an hour of your undistracted attention. Out of a Center sends you over the falls in a barrel–it’s a dark, oppressive, and jarring experience, and aside from the obvious Neurosis leanings is also influenced by the ethos of genre-proof acts like Melvins and Swans. But Minsk are insistent on playing both ends of continuums (as opposed to contradictions) like heavy/mellow, loud/quiet, crushing/caressing, often at the same time; and more traditional (read: closed minded) fans would be uneasy to learn that some aspects of Out of a Center are but a few genre sidesteps away from atmospheric master-sculptors like Dead Can Dance and the darker late ‘80's work of The Cure. In fact, the tribal drumming, clean guitar tones, electronic fine touches, and echoing sax during the introspective first half of “Wisp of Tow” bring to mind something from an instrumental portion of a heavier Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (think “The Snakepit” or “Icing Sugar”).
As you would expect, the six songs on the album are all quite lengthy–nearly all are over ten minutes and the shortest is eight–but they vary nicely in how they take shape. Some begin and/or end with protracted quiet ambience, unfurling at a deliberate pace, while others charge straight to the darkened heart of the matter, but all command the attention of the listener. Swirling atmospheres and exquisite serpentine melodies are draped across mammoth dirges that build to peaks marked equally by accumulative power and exhaustion attaining it. Somewhat unique to Minsk is a more consistent use of tribal drumming patterns that create a percussive driven sound, and even during the slower portions the drummer plays nice full patterns. The drumming also partners well with the raw vocal style to create an organic and primal vibe that is offset by the technology of heavily distorted riffs and electronic effects. The album initially feels tremendously dense and punishing, but repeated listens reveal an equal amount of lush atmosphere and detail. Out of a Center is the kind of album that for the first several listens you enjoy, but only really wrap your mind around a specific dimension. Parts fall into place gradually, until in a gestalt moment the conceptual aspect and multiple layers of music come into equal focus, revealing the true grandeur of the album. The cognitive appeal, visceral power, and the mesmerizing rhythms and droning combine to create a transcending experience.
Out of a Center was recorded by Sanford Parker (ex-Buried At Sea), who has turned the knobs for Pelican and Lair of the Minotaur, among others. Midway through recording Parker actually joined the band and took up bass duties. His experience and production talents are a boon to a band that already seems to know precisely what they’re doing. Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive is a highly impressive debut and an absolute must for fans of the genre.
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