REVIEW: GILMORE TRAIL – IMPERMANENCE

Years in the making, British post-rock quartet Gilmore Trail’s third album is a disciplined and mannered love letter to the subgenre they adore.

GILMORE TRAIL – Impermanence

[Post-Rock – UK – Chasmata]

I first stumbled across Gilmore Trail more than five years ago when they released an excellent cover medley of Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic themes from Twin Peaks – recorded and performed in a Tortoise meets Mogwai post-rock style. This remarkable reworking came complete with beaming clean guitars and stomping drums, crawling into a Mono-esque distorted tremolo guitar epic climax. A full studio follow up from the Sheffield, UK based instrumental quartet has been a long time in the making since then, in which the post rock genre has probably had it’s own decline and then slow building rise and crescendo in that period (hey, see what I did there). Impermanence is the Gilmore boys’ third full length album, with the quartet remaining totally independent and in their own little world, even sounding distanced from a lot of Sheffield’s musical output (FYI they have an absolutely sick underground metal scene right now).

Many years in the making, Gilmore Trail have really honed in on their skills as performers and sound crafters, resulting in what is easily their most intricate and sonically explorative offering. Impermanence runs just shy of an hour across seven tracks, and what is most striking is how the quartet successfully manage to dodge the tried and tested “crescendocore” tropes of building long winding instrumentals that lure the listener into heavy, explosive distorted guitar climaxes. At least when they do it, they offer something of a twist, like on ‘The Zone Of Silence’, which is largely told through twiddly guitar and bass interplay, with driving drums. Even when you think the crushing post-metal influenced distorted riffs are going to obliterate your eardrums, the band gracefully pull back into those lulling clean guitars, and the big finale you were expecting – perhaps pining for – is interrupted with blackened blastbeats breaking down into strategic party pooping sad cum glitches. A really neat touch and a little meta moment that has come from post-production. These exercises in restraint can lead to some stagnant moments, like on ‘Echoes Of Solitude’‘s first half peeling back to a humming ambient drift, with the main melodic motif (and perhaps the album’s best) not arriving until four minutes in, embellished with wonderful saxophone playing for patient ears.

One should not take for granted just how satisfying the sonic qualities are on Impermanence. Opening track ‘Ruins’ easily brings to mind the accomplished sounds of Mogwai’s Happy Songs For Happy People and Tortoise’s Millions Now Living Will Never Die, with the sound of the guitars and bass frequently wrapping around each other playfully and tantalisingly, with a physicality like some really intense marathon sex. ‘Distant Reflection’ even sounds like it’s bringing in some glockenspiel – the secret weapon that brightens up many a classic post-rock record. Gilmore Trail are in no hurry at all to climax, and their strengths lay in letting a composition just hang and float in the air. The guitar interplay, the disciplined jazz-leaning drums and subtle nuanced textures are allowed to just breathe. The mix is also remarkably bare at points with guitars that aren’t overly draped in reverb and delay, also free of the overused cliche of spoken word samples.

A band doesn’t always have to change the genre or do something wildly original, unique or groundbreaking in order to make a great record. Gilmore Trail’s guru-like understanding of post-rock from the most minute timbre up to the explosions in the sky is so well mannered and sharpened that it would be difficult for any deep lore post-rock T-shirt bearers not to feel enamoured by this album. Impermanence is a love letter to everything that makes the entire history of post-rock so great. But going forwards, Gilmore Trail need to zone in on what is theirs and theirs only. Plus it would be really nice – and oh so deserved – to see them partner with a sizable label and go out and tour the world. C’mon Temporary Residence, the album is pretty much named after you!

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Impermanence is out now on CD, Vinyl and Digital formats through Chasmata Records.

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