Pasa Tem­pos

New al­bums from Grails and Slow­dive

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GRAILS Chal­ice

Hym­nal (Tem­po­rary Res­i­dence Ltd.) Port­land, Ore­gon, band Grails sur­faces ev­ery few years with a col­lec­tion of ex­per­i­men­tal rock songs, hav­ing stayed away just long enough that their re­turn is a sur­prise. Dur­ing th­ese hia­tuses, found­ing mem­bers Alex Hall and Emil Amos typ­i­cally ex­plore dis­parate side projects such as the funk-in­spired Li­lacs & Cham­pagne and the drone-metal band Om. When they re­turn to Grails, it’s usu­ally to per­form a brand of metal that blends the psy­che­delic space-rock of Hawk­wind with the post-rock at­mo­spher­ics of God­speed You Black Em­peror. On Chal­ice Hym­nal, how­ever, Hall and Amos throw a curve­ball and rope in as many in­flu­ences as their con­sid­er­able mu­si­cal knowl­edge al­lows. With invit­ing grooves from an elec­tric pi­ano and a soul­ful vo­cal sam­ple (ren­dered un­in­tel­li­gi­ble), “Empty Cham­ber” feels like some­thing from an Erykah Badu record. The al­bum closer “Af­ter the Fu­neral” is 10 min­utes of gen­tly sway­ing beats, lush strings and horns, and acous­tic gui­tars that re­call dra­matic 1950s sound­tracks and druidic dirges from Black Sab­bath. The band di­rectly calls back to its much-loved 2011 al­bum Deep Pol­i­tics with cuts like “Deeper Pol­i­tics” and “Deep Snow II,” but it’s un­clear whether this is a con­tin­u­a­tion of ear­lier ideas or a bit of play­ful­ness for long­time fans. The lat­ter track is among the al­bum’s high­lights, with con­tained bursts of in­spired gui­tar be­tween quiet pas­sages of re­pose. It’s not un­like the band’s gen­eral ca­reer ap­proach. — Robert Ker

SLOW­DIVE Slow­dive (Dead Oceans) In re­cent years, sev­eral in­die bands from the 1990s have pulled to­gether to re­lease new al­bums and em­bark on new tours. There’s money in nostal­gia, as early fans now have more dis­pos­able in­come and newer gen­er­a­tions ben­e­fit from decades of crit­i­cal as­sess­ment (as well as easy ac­cess to bands’ en­tire cat­a­logs on the in­ter­net). How­ever, the self-ti­tled new re­lease from 1990s shoegaze act Slow­dive is so good that it seems less a cash-in and more as though the mu­si­cians, now wiser and more com­fort­able with them­selves, sim­ply re­con­vened for the joy of mak­ing mu­sic. Slow­dive an­nounces its re­turn from a 22-year break with the opener “Slomo,” a song that lux­u­ri­ates in soft-rock drums and syn­the­siz­ers and is driven by a lead gui­tar that sounds aquatic, re­ced­ing away through echo­ing de­lays. Ev­ery sound is mul­ti­plied through the thick use of re­ver­ber­a­tion and mul­ti­tracked vo­cals, giv­ing the songs a kalei­do­scopic feel. The tempo ex­plodes from “Slomo” into “Star Rov­ing” and “Every­one Knows,” and there is a eu­phoric ur­gency to much of the ma­te­rial — a far cry from the group’s best 1990s work, which was more hyp­notic and ephemeral. The al­bum ends with “Fall­ing Ashes,” an eight-minute com­po­si­tion of gen­tle pi­ano melodies and the words “think­ing about love” re­peated like a mantra. It’s a hushed com­po­si­tion that feels like snowflakes slowly melt­ing. When it closes, Slow­dive dis­ap­pears again. — R.K.

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