High Aura'd: Sanguine Futures
Bathetic Records

Some obvious similarities crop up between Sanguine Futures, John Kolodij's latest High Aura'd release, and his 2011 scorcher Mooncusser. That collection, for example, was mastered by John Twells, while the new one was both mixed and produced by the Type Recordings overseer. But stylistically there are dramatic differences between the two recordings. Whereas Mooncusser impressed for the sheer force and intensity of its guitar-generated dronescaping, the new material finds the Boston-based Kolodij exploring a more diverse range of moods and dynamics in the recording's six pieces, even if the tone is often bleak and funereal. Listening to Sanguine Futures, one quickly realizes that aficionados of Twells' own recent work should find Kolodij's appealing, too.

The forty-one-minute release opens powerfully with “Mercy Brown,” its title a reference to an 1892 incident in which Brown's corpse was exhumed when it came to be believed that she was a vampire (an incident that later, it's believed, inspired Bram Stoker to base the character of Lucy Westenra on Mercy in Dracula). For nine nightmarish minutes, field recordings of natural sounds and the pinched wheeze of Greg Kelley's trumpet merge with Kolodij's low-pitched rumbling to paint a picture of ghoulish gloom and despair. At this stage, we're deep inside Deathprod territory, with oppressive winds cloaking and random blasts decimating the barren landscape. The mood continues without interruption when “The Northern Sky, Ablaze” supplants “Mercy Brown” with five minutes of industrial-ambient dronescaping. A marked change in atmosphere arises, however, at the end of side A when shimmering guitar textures and organ tones imbue “River Runs Like Jewels” with quietly radiant uplift, as if to suggest that the traveler has survived the harrowing journey and reached his/her destination relatively unscathed.

The album's funereal tone re-asserts itself on side B when “Sleep Like the Dead” slowly rises like Brown's exhumed corpse, eager to spread its disease, until it becomes a churning wellspring of corrosive combustion. An even more uncompromising exercise, “La Chasse-galerie,” its title a reference to a 19th-century French-Canadian tale (also known as The Bewitched Canoe) about voyageurs who make a deal with the devil, seethes aggressively, too, though hope emerges when shafts of light appear midway through its seven-minute reign. That the B side revisits the pattern established by A is borne out when the piano-based closer “Methodist Bells” ends the album on an encouragingly positive note. It's comforting to leave Sanguine Futures knowing that there's apparently room for both redemption and salvation in the High Aura'd world.

July-August 2012