Implodes – Black Earth
This is not a friendly album. You innocently press play and you greeted almost immediately by a chunky distorted sound that fades, letting an acoustic guitar (heavily processed) and some random noises in the back envelope you, like a mist with a couple of corpse candles luring you into perdition (or a girl with a rather sharp and pointy knife).
The album is Black Earth and the band is Chicago’s own Implodes (signed to Kranky records). This is their début album and their sound is hard to describe. It’s very noisy, it’s an amalgamation of drone, ambient and some seedy variant of rock (all about that thumping tambourine in ‘Marker’). Implodes is a band that treats the voice like they treat the other instruments: it has to be processed, it has to be reverberated; a clean voice is a glitch in the system for them.
Something that’s remarkable about this magical place called Black Earth is how once you dust off the first layer (which can jar you if you’re not prepared), you’ll see how it is like a network of underground tunnels (something us in Mexico appreciate, allegedly). Take away the noise and ‘Marker’ becomes a straight, old-school, barn-burning rock ditty. Do the same to the beautiful ‘White window’ (the dreamiest of the set) and you have a very optimistic piece of ambient. There is a heavy presence of noise but it’s more of a signature (or the framing, if you will) than the painting itself.
It is truly amazing how the jumps in style never stick out like a sore thumb. Garage goes glitch goes drone goes ambient. Sometimes even in the same track, like ‘Screech Owl’, which bookends itself with a lovely acoustic guitar (love the sound of the finger sliding over the frets), but contains a very angry beast inside.
Although droning seems to be a quality these three gentlemen and a girl verse into quite well, they sometimes do short bursts (‘Experiential Report’, ‘Down time’) to give you a spot of rest between a mastodon charging at you (‘Song for fucking Damon II [Trap Door]’) or a sunset by a lake ruined by a heavy, unwelcome storm (‘Hands on the rail’).
Black Earth works in juxtapositions. Dreams and nightmares, love and hate, friends and enemies, it all melts and becomes a cycle, just like life. You could have a nice cup of coffee with a friend (‘Oxblood’) and maybe further down the line, things go sour and you never, ever speak again (‘Meadowslands’). Heck, maybe an alien will come by and abduct you after knocking you silly with a phaser raygun (‘Wendy’ – lovely tone there).
The cover pretty much sums up the sound of Implodes: yes, it’s a peaceful look at a swamp/marsh/bog/waterbody and yes, there’s a fit looking girl (well, her silhouette), but seeing the business end of a knife on that “ready to plunge” position is not very re-assuring.
So, yeah, that’s how Implodes’ Black Earth sounds: beautiful, nostalgic, expansive and sometimes unsettling (due to either the distortions or the disembodied voices). Nice experimental début album by these Chicago natives.
About the author: I wouldn’t go an compare them with Belong. Just because two bands use heavy reverberation and soundscapes to create an atmospheric album doesn’t mean they are on the same category (unless is a “cool album” or the “signed to Kranky” category).