lasting the cobwebs out of your ears and scorching the cones of your speakers with sharp blasts of sound, October Language, the debut release from the New Orleans duo Belong, is one of the most unabashedly emotional and cinematic ambient albums to come along for quite some time. It’s a record with an immersive nature, capable of filling the furthest corners of the room with sound—sometimes, it can be overwhelming. At turns recalling the sputtering post-apocalyptic soundscapes found during the more ambient moments of M83’s Before the Dawn Heals Us or a 21st century remake of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless as produced by Christian Fennesz, the album is a furious maelstrom blistering with emotional tension.
With the gorgeous opening of “I Never Lose. Never Really,” Belong’s aesthetic is established as thick, gritty slabs of guitar drone are shot through with drifting clouds of synthesized ambience and then scoured to the bone by distortion and electronic processing. Through the chaos, a key melodic figure struggles to maintain the composition’s integrity as the whole thing threatens to collapse under its own sprawling mass. Over the course of the album’s 45 minutes, there isn’t much deviation from this basic formula. Some tracks, like “I’m too Sleepy…Shall we Swim” or the mid-album coupling of “Remove the Inside” and “Who Told you this Room Exists,” opt for a more straightforward ambient approach, foregoing the granular haze of the album’s more bombastic moments. Overall, though, October Language is an astonishingly cohesive listening experience—one that shouldn’t be approached so much as individual entities, but rather as the sum of its parts.
Because of its recent release, October Language could easily be linked to the Katrina Disaster, despite having been recorded in 2004. Even so, its raw, epic sound provides a fitting soundtrack to the destruction that took place in New Orleans. October Language strips away the standards of conventional guitar music, leaving only the barest of foundations from which to build their own brand of emotionally devastating sonic destruction.
The surprisingly convenient context that Katrina provides for Belong’s expertly sculpted vistas of sonic drift may be nothing more than a striking coincidence, but it’s a twist of fate that supplements October Language’s already substantial emotional heft. Belong have crafted a great debut out of the Louisiana haze, a near-physical listening experience that challenges the conventions of ambient music. Heavy stuff.
Reviewed by: Carl Ritger
Reviewed on: 2006-08-10