Lake of Violet‘s first full-length album, The Startling Testimony of Plumb Lines, is a multifaceted recording painted with a variety musical colors. This Chicagoan quartet’s compositions transcend genres and evade categorization at every turn. Even though their works casually hint at the progressive and post-everything side of things, the way they are constructed and performed escape the confines of those labels in the basic sense. But when a group is comprised of current and former members of Locrian, Minsk and other forward-thinking musical acts, this kind of extensive experimentation is to be expected. But even knowing who makes up Lake of Violent doesn’t prepare listeners for the delightfully surprising musical experience they will have when they tackle this 40-minute LP.
Testimony is made up of six genre-bending tracks, most of which are over seven minutes in length. Those who let themselves be enveloped by these songs, and frankly the album as a whole, will experience a kind of musical astral projection as they get lost in these amorphous, ever-changing pieces. The songs on Testimony began life as free jams that were fleshed out over time. The tracks have since become more constructed but an aura of openness still lingers within them, with some portions feeling almost semi-improvisational in nature. The revolving door of instrumentation, the dense atmospheres and the songs’ loose structures can place the listener in a kind of meditative state that will make them feel as if their soul is leaving their body.
“Backwards Light” opens up the record with a swell of feedback that paves the way for huge, glimmering guitars to come crashing down upon everything. The riffs and hypnotic vocals are smothered in ethereal effects, the bass thumps like the heartbeat of some unfathomable beast, and the drumming thunders spaciously on this sonically heavy, yet oddly calming tune. “Circles in Red Dirt” follows up that glowing number with a sinister, atmospheric crawl. A myriad of percussion sets the groundwork for this tune, providing for a very entrancing primitive rhythm. Guitars and synths howl and shriek menacingly as the ritualistic drumming and primordial bass grooves continue their haunting, spiritual march. “Dark Blue Square” and similar track “Please Stay Longer” provide a brief break from the intense assaults with some acoustic guitar-centered jamming. The former bounces along like a folk-laden campfire song written by oddballs, while the latter somberly strums beneath a cloud of glossy, airy synths.
“Bastard and the Infinite” opens up with mammoth bass lines that trudge along determinedly beneath a sky of cascading effects and overbearing guitar-generated soundscapes. As it progresses, the atmosphere becomes less dense and allows the percussion to become more spacious and the guitars to churn out free form melancholia. The nine-minute “Captive/Fugitive” begins its lengthy excursion with some light guitar plucking before an array of percussion, similar to that utilized in “Circles in Red Dirt”, transform the song into a shamanic ritual. The song briefly plummets into more “metal” territory some minutes in, where the bass bellows like a giant and the guitars conjure dissonant melodies among a cacophony of sound – a cacophony that continues to buzz and writhe until the track’s end.
Though the shorter songs don’t stack up against the enormity of the rest of the record, and album closer “Please Stay Longer” lacks the imaginative nature of its predecessors, the bulk of Testimony proves to be a one of a kind musical experience. Somewhere between all the different styles and facets of more “difficult” music lies this impressive behemoth. Lake of Violet have carved out a special niche for themselves with this solid debut effort. Fans of the weird and esoteric will want to check this out.
Release Date: April 1, 2016
Label: Gilead Media
Favorite Tracks: “Backwards Light” and “Captive/Fugitive”
For Fans Of: Locrian, Kayo Dot and Swans