This is intended as a monthly (duh) shout-out for the release that made the biggest impression on me in the preceding month. While said release is more often than not likely to be a new one, it doesn’t necessarily have to be: I may have only just chanced upon an old-skool gem that has captured my attention more than anything newly released…

…which is the case in this inaugural “Album Of The Month” post, as its Lift To Experience’s “The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads” which has cattle-prodded its way to the front of the herd.

Lift To Experience - The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads

I’ve harped on in previous posts how it was Josh T Pearson’s performance that most impressed me of the bands I wasn’t previously aware of at the recent Dirty Three-curated ATP festival. Pearson has yet to ‘officially’ commit any of his solo material to tape (apart from his cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”) so for a further fix of his apocalyptic country punk I was left to seek out this 2001 album by Lift To Experience, the Denton, Texas-based band which Pearson fronted (and perhaps still fronts – there is word of two albums worth of new Lift To Experience written/demoed).

Pearson, the son of a Pentecostal preacher, has described “The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads” as a “concept album about the end of the world where Texas is the Promised Land.” It’s epic and dramatic, at times bombastic, but also cut through with a wry humour. The ‘concept’ extends to the fact that the song titles read as a coherent whole (Just as was told / Down came the angels / Falling from Cloud 9 / With crippled wings / Waiting to hit / The ground so soft), and the songs themselves similarly flow into each other so as to be ‘movements’ within a whole rather than separate entities – Pearson apparently having pieced together the album in solitude (while working as a ranch-hand), every word, note, wash of feedback carefully choreographed.
The sleeve proudly proclaims “Ladies and Gentlemen we are playing with one guitar” and it is indeed hard to believe that this grandiose sound is the result of just three people & one guitar. Pearson’s first exposure to music outside of the church was initially to U2, the Cure, and the Smiths, and then to shoegazers My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride and the like – and the wall of sound that the three Texas boys of Lift To Experience conjure up is deeply rooted in those British influences, but as filtered through “just a stupid ranch-hand / in a Texas rock band / trying to understand God’s master plan.” The guitar maelstrom coupled with Pearson’s impassioned vocals (which have been compared to Jeff Buckley) makes “The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads” come off as the shoegaze equivalent of a good ‘ole fire-and-brimstone sermon, Lift to Experience the Old Testament guitar band here to lead us out of the wilderness and into the promised land.

(I’m currently struggling to understand why Lift To Experience failed to make any impression on me when I saw them live in London many years ago, but I’m happy to admit my mistake and glad to have finally allowed them to get all biblical on my ass.)

“Falling From Cloud 9” is my favourite track on the album, and here is a live session recorded for student radio network SBC, taken from the “These Are The Days” single (both “The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads” and “These Are The Days” are available directly from Bella Union).

Lift To Experience – Falling From Cloud 9 (live SBN session)

Could Have Been A Contender…

Pan Sonic : “Katodivaihe (Cathodephase)” (Blast First Petite, 2007)
This blends together everything the Finnish pioneers have done before – pounding machinist beats, spacious electro-minimalism, abrasive digidistortion, cavernous isolationist ambience – but also throws in a bit of the unexpected (cello), to give us arguably their finest album to date. Pan Sonic is the sound of music made by machines, not computers – an important distinction, as Pan Sonic’s custom analogue equipment and their practice of recording live to DAT gives the sound a warmth (whilst still being devoid of emotion) not found in computer-generated techno. Not an easy listen, but already in pole position as my favourite electronic album of the year…

Grails : “Black Tar Prophecies vols 1,2, & 3” (Important, 2006)
With their violin player disappearing into thin air on their return from a European tour, and apparent unhappiness within the group at being considered just another by-the-numbers ‘post-rock’ band, Grails were forced into reassessing their sound. This 2006 album mixes drone, doom, dub and banjos to heady effect, creating a dark instrumental masterpiece where apocalyptic folk sits comfortably side-by-side with space-rock. (Thanks Bruno for the recommendation.)

Battles : “Mirrored” (Warp, 2007)
Surely this is the kind of music for which the term “post-rock” might actually have some relevance if it hadn’t been flung at such a disparate range of sounds as to have lost all meaning. A key reference point is Disco Inferno: “Mirrored” combines the sampladelic indiepop of “Technicolour” with the darker, paranoid “DI Go Pop”, retooling it as glammed-up math rock for the 22nd century. The helium vocals give the album a cartoonish quality which can start to grate, but otherwise it’s a pretty exhilarating listen.

Seefeel : “Quique (redux edition)” (Too Pure, 2007 (originally released 1993))
Cited as the (r)evolutionary step that merged “Loveless”-era shoegazing with electronica, this album now sounds a little dated (for a 21st century take on this sound check out pretty much anything on the Morr Music label), but this ‘Rothko ‘n roll’ (as Simon Reynolds described it in a 1993 review) should still provide a rewarding experience for unreconstructed shoegazers as well as anyone enamoured of ambient techno and the 4AD ‘dreampop’ of Cocteau Twins & the like.

I’ve also really been enjoying sinking into the sludgy doom swamplands that are the ‘expanded edition’ Japanese re-issues of Sunn O)))’s “White1”(2003), “White2”(2004) and “Black One”(2005) – “play your gloom-axe Stephen O’Malley / sub-bass clinging to the sides of the valley”…