Scattered Purgatory pull out all the stops on new ambient album on Guruguru Brain
Taiwan’s Scattered Purgatory have been releasing forward thinking Post-Rock since 2014. Instead of going down the Mogwai, 65daysofstatic and Mono route, the quiet/loud blueprint, they have opted to forge their own, ambient path on new album God of Silver Grass, released on Japan’s Guruguru Brain.
Their last album 2014’s Lost Ethnography of the Miscanthus Ocean, also released on Guruguru Brain, was chocked full of heavy riffs and hefty ideas. On God if Silver Grass everything has been subdued. The guitars are almost unrecognisable under layers of reverb and delay. The juxtaposition of these organic, yet heavily manipulated, sounds with the sub-zero synths gives everything a post-apocalyptical feeling of desolation, loneliness an regeneration.
Opening with Pao-P’u-Tzu, a 12 minute jaunt through dark chill-out, they are telling us “Oh you thought you’d be getting Ethnography II? Sorry to disappoint you, but we’ve found this whole different school of thought that we enjoy more. You’ll hear snippets of our old sound, but ultimately this is a totally different beast.” What’s even more remarkable is that after the initial shock that there aren’t any drums or catchy searing guitars, you find yourself being drawn in by, well, nothing. I don’t mean nothing in a John Cage way, far from it, but in between the dextrous guitar runs and bass throbs there is this level of synth/noise/effects that is nigh on impossible to ignore. When listening to the cassette version of God of Silver Grass it’s hard to tell where Pao-P’u-Tzu ends and Pathway Ghost starts, as it all merges into one via a droney throb.
Pathway Ghost is a totally different beast to its predecessor. Most notable because of its use of percussion and vocals. Don’t worry Scattered Purgatory haven’t gone pop, but the use of chanty vocals, coupled with a basic rhythmic beat does bring to mind images of sacrifice and pagan idolatry. But underpinning the whole song is a Vangelis-esque synth/guitar. It not only keep the song moving forward but also cements it in the not too distant future.
Title track God of Silver Grass closes the album with epic swaths of noise, confusion and ultimately pathos. Guitars wail, synths engulf us like Will-o-the-wisps while whispering their secrets and nonsense in our ears, trumpets from other realms play slowed down lurid versions of the last call. While this is happening deep bass rumbles on, totally oblivious to the rest of the band, but somehow bringing everything together. At twenty five minutes God of Silver Grass can take its time to get where it needs to be, and the song is better for its slow meted phrasing.
What Scattered Purgatory has effectively done is not only re-write, but re-define what Post-Rock can be in 2016. While it never unleashed gargantuan riffs of monolithic proportions, it does have subtle peaks and valleys. Instead of using that guitar as its main weapon, Scattered Purgatory use a combination of trumpets and percussion to hammer home their message of alienation and redemption. This is chill-out for the Doom Generation!