Violence in the real world is an old testament of nature that has existed before the dawn of Man. The very thought of violence and the world that surrounds it at first seems like a scary way of life. With willful destruction comes the aftermath of these horrible actions, and that aftermath lies in the faithful belief of hope. Hope is what drives humans and the rest of the world alike into preserving the resistance of violence. On the Brooklyn, New York psychedelic/acoustic/indie folkers debut record, Almanac, Dragon Turtle attempt to paint a vivid portrait of the beauty of hope that follows the grittiness of violence. On this two-sided coin, the duo offer one of this 2009s’s best morose soundtracks, even if it’s comes a little late.
Composed of musicians Tom Asselin and Brian Lightbody, Dragon Turtle’s aim to create the perfect mood-setting musical journey began almost three years ago. Splitting their time in between the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and the city of Brooklyn, New York, the dynamic duo released two self-release EPs while garnering a small buzz in the indie rock community. Flashing forward to Almanac, Dragon Turtle use the darkness of post-9/11 America as the canvas on which to paint their debut record. Mixing one part post-Syd Barret Pink Floyd, a dash of Kraftwerk and Wilco, and possibly even a moodier, sinister Simon & Garfunkel (complete with droning vocals), Dragon Turtle perform well on the wings of its release to close out 2009.
Kicking off this somber acoustic jaunt into the subconscious is the seven-and-a-half minute opener “Causality”. With whispering vocals and dynamically climbing guitar work, “Causality” weaves layers upon intricate musical passages that surprise and lull the subconscious. Dragon Turtle’s immense instrumentation works wonders here in terms of preparing the listener for a great musical journey. While longer tinged tunes can make or break a band, Dragon Turtle pull off the rare feat of literally making you forget time. It’s clear from the band’s use of time that they are more concerned about the buildup of the music than the time-frame. This is highly evident on the band’s musical journey in cuts “Belt Of Venus” and the masterpiece of the album, “Moon Fallout”.
The themes of war, violence and the ominous doom that impends upon Man come to life through the guitars and other instruments leading the way. With the elegant buildup “Causality” provides, “Belt of Venus” offers more of that gentle, sophisticated musical pathway which lulls the listener into senses of hope, as well as the sense of impending violence. Subtle percussion over shoegaze-like swirls provide the intermission from the gentle to the grotesque as the album’s third and overtly powerful composition “Moon Fallout” takes command. The song, according to the band, follows the dream of a young child waking in the crisis of Israeli strikes in the country of Lebanon. If this is the case, then Dragon Turtle are on their way of crafting their own musical version of CNN. This is a heavy record, no doubt, but not in the traditional sense (i.e. attitude, tone, technicality, etc). It’s heavy because of the underlying messages and manipulation of human moods; those elements alone are hard facets to master.
Daunting guitars, sirens, pan flutes… they’re all here, and they’re all building the musical castle Dragon Turtle wants to perch atop of. “Moon Fallout” succeeds as a great musical painting and provides as said before a multitude of emotions. The best parts come in around 5:24 where the band loses it and kicks it into high gear, and this is a nine minute epic, mind you!
With the conclusion comes more waves of Man’s fascination with post-war living (“Organ Fallout”), the intensity of violence between nature and man (“Island Of Broken Glass”) and the natural progression of history, literature, myths, and society (“Hometime, “Hourglass”, and “Burn The Leaves”). On “Island Of Broken Glass”, the lyrics for the song influenced the album’s cover: a double helix of burning books. There’s not a seemingly more perfect image to represent the music this duo have composed. All that remains is for the masses to listen to it.
This record is for the psychedelic elite and for those who want to try something left of the dial, so to speak. By far one of 2009’s best-kept late releases, Almanac certainly fares well in its cohesiveness as a work, as well as probing the conscious mind of Man. For the Pennsylvania/Brooklyn duo, they’re certainly making Prometheus proud in their pursuit of fire. Flip this on and feel the burn; you won’t regret it… especially for this winter season? You bet.
“Island of Broken Glass”