City of Brides
The genre designation that shows up at iTunes for En's third full-length album City of Brides is “Dream Drone," which, all things considered, isn't all that bad as far as labels go (Students of Decay itself refers to the recording as “American West Coast drone music”). Spreading eleven tracks across four vinyl sides, the release sees Bay Area-based multi-instrumentalists James Devane and Root Strata co-runner Maxwell August Croy resuming their explorative mission three years on from their last En outing, Already Gone.
With its placid demeanour spiked by aggressive noise flourishes, “Blades” acts as an effective entry point for the recording, signaling as it does that while En might identify as an ambient-drone outfit it's not afraid to push beyond the genre's conventions into transportive psychedelic realms. One thing that sets it apart from other ambient-drone outfits is its use of the koto, and its sonorities, Eastern by way of association, prominently figure into the meditative “Dead Ringer” and lulling “Mark of the Slav,” the latter an especially sultry melding of acoustic and synthetic textures. Elsewhere, “Awkward Paws,” suggestive of an En mini-tribute to Laraaji, envelops the listener within a cloud of lullaby-like swirl.Something else that City of Brides has going for it is variety: each track's soundworld is dramatically different in character and design, though the contrasts are never so extreme the album begins to feel like a disjointed collection of pieces by different artists; mood shifts are commonplace, too, with the playfulness of one setting countered by the sober countenance of another. Consider, for example, the minimal clarity of “Dead Ringer” as opposed to “Blonde is Back,” where En interlaces fuzzy synthesizer textures with extended organ tones and high-velocity synth sputter; consider as well the plaintive mien of the two-part “Songs For Diminished Lovemaking” versus “Mendocino Nature Rave,” a controlled exercise in rapturous mind-bending that might well be the recording's high point.