Standard issue post-rock isn’t usually this cinematic. Heists, dates, slasher flicks, the spaghetti western — the best of the canon’s tropes can be heard on Grails’ Deep Politic in pretty imitative counterpoint. And a lot of the credit, this time around at least, has to go to fifth man Timba Harris. In fact, I seriously doubt Grails’ four staff horsemen could have achieved this unique synthesis of sound and projected image were it not for Harris’ deft scoring.
A Seattle-based fiddler and composer, Harris performs and records with avant-rockers Secret Chiefs 3 and Master Musicians of Bukkake, as well as chairing more acoustic ensembles with singer-songwriters, like Terry Riley’s son Gyan. Grails’ 2008 high-water mark, Doomsdayer’s Holiday, while just as restless in regards to genre, lacked the cohesion and narrative — however implied — that you see with your ears here. And while I’m not sure what, if anything, Deep Politics has to say per se about the body politic — either on the surface or at a more systemic place — with eight meaty cuts like these, I’m not sure we should even give a shit. After all, politics is little more than the art of looking for trouble, Groucho Marx once said. But honestly, were it not for Harris’ compositional prodding, I don’t think Emil Amos, Alex Hall, Bill Slater or Wm. Zak Riles could’ve looked deep enough.
But just as post-rock isn’t typically this cinematic (in recent years anyways), she really hasn’t been all that good, either. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a half-dozen or so units that are doing anything besides the same ol’ loudQUIETloud decrescendi: Pram, Battles, Ulan Bator, Jackie-O Motherfucker, The Psychic Paramount, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, and of course, the band at hand. In fact, the only times Deep Politicsdoesn’t work is when it goes for that sun-scorched, ex-cokehead AOR sheen. Perhaps when you cast your nets this wide, a little brim is inevitable.
At Grails’ most ambitious, however, as on the quintet’s composite reading of “All The Colors Of The Dark” by the Italian giallo composer and Ennio Morricone understudy Bruno Nicolai, all previous transgressions hereby get clemency. That’s a case where the impersonation’s done right. In fact, because it is so genuinely rendered and slavishly executed, it almost sounds like the grasshopper besting the master, in real-time — even better than the real thing, child. And if a Sadie Benning or, better yet, a Monika Treut is looking for a tune to roll in the credits of her next feature, she could do a lot worse than “Daughters Of Bilitis.”