rowing’s strongest asset has always been the sheer indescribability of their sound—they take styles like drone, minimalism, doom, and ambient and craft a composite of natural, fluid sound. As a sign of departure, however, the now New York-based duo have defected from the Kranky camp to the decidedly more punk-oriented Troubleman Unlimited label for the His Return EP. With this release, Growing have written their densest tracks yet, with deep and compact guitar and bass chords layered as thick as concrete. The variations in their once-diverse sound are now very limited, honed down to an opaque droning that expands over the three tracks here.
Additionally, the most staggering difference between this EP and the rest of the Growing discography is the stark presence of vocals on the second track here, “Freedom Towards Death,” a four-minute song (the shortest here) that veers strangely close to typical pop structuring, albeit with the guitars and basses swathed in an array of distortion and phasing effects. The vocals, although pleasant, somewhat stifle Growing’s sense of great expansion, their ability to transcend the medium of sound into an all-encompassing experience evident on their tremendous last album, 2004’s The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light.
The closing 16-minute journey, “Wide Open,” however, is a definitive moment for Growing. The track slowly mounts in volume and layers for the opening minutes and eventually coalesces into a massive, shimmering ocean of sound. It’s like floating through storm clouds, getting lost in the at-once bright and ominous sound. It’s utterly devastating, beautiful, and timeless. It is the kind of musical moment that could last for the entire span of the CD and still feel far too short, the type of track that you truly wish could last forever. It doesn’t, of course, but it does end in a distorted, overblown fashion as the song fades into a spurt of static and a crackle of noise.
Ultimately, it is hard to tell what this EP signifies—merely a short departure, or a new path for future Growing releases to follow. Whatever it means, His Return stands persuasive and bold in the rest of the Growing discography. The duo has stripped much of their variation away in favor of a power-drone approach, but when this yields such awe-inspiring moments as “Wide Open,” it’s hard to find a fault in their choice.
Reviewed by: Ryan Potts
Reviewed on: 2005-10-13