Bayta Darell: Write Me in Metal / Make Me Forever (Independent, 2005)

by Brent

baytadarell_largeThe brand of music known loosely as epic post-rock relies on layers and layers of sound; guitars, keyboards, delay, vocals, all mesh together to create an overwhelming musical experience. It’s often easy to overlook the obvious challenges that conveying this sense of sweeping music can bring. For instance, epic post-rock/ambient-rock requires almost as much expertise in the areas sound recording, production, mixing, and engineering as it does artistic integrity. It would seem on the surface that only a band signed to a major label, with access to millions of dollars and hoards of studio wizards, could pull off the sense of grandeur that post-rock vanguards attempt to create. And it is this very notion that first impresses the listener of Write Me in Metal / Make Me Forever, the new full-length from Bayta Darell. With almost 80 minutes of music spanning over 14 tracks, Write Me in Metal / Make Me Forever is an adventurous and ambitious full-length debut for a band that is self-financing and self-releasing their CD. Yet, citing influences as varied as Brian Wilson, My Bloody Valentine, and Sigur Ros, Bayta Darell is amazingly up to the task, delivering a remarkable and engaging collection of grand songs that can hold their own against any other band in terms of creativity, sonics, integrity, and technically. Featuring falsetto vocals that float sentimental melodies over a musical base of various guitars, drums, keyboards, drums and percussion, Write Me in Metal / Make Me Forever is a fascinating exploration of love expressed as organic sound. Simply put, I’m impressed that what I perceived to be “a bunch of friends” could pull off such a huge-sounding and intelligent album…an album that can easily stand up to albums by other vaguely similar acts like The Autumns, Spiritualized, and Sigur Ros. Yet, with the band’s uncanny ear for memorable melodies, and their penchant for layering sweetly sung vocals, Bayta Darell stands out from other bands who rely more heavily on delay pedals rather than intelligent songwriting. The band is kind of like a post-rock band that isn’t quite rock, isn’t quite post-rock, isn’t quite pop or dreampop, isn’t quite slowcore, or psychedelic, or retro, or ambient, yet retaining elements of all of these. And it works together wonderfully, transcending guitar strums and drum-beating to usher the listener into a beautiful and dense musical experience.

The faint drones and the sounds of distant chimes that signal the beginning of Write Me in Metal / Make Me Forever’s first track, “My Time for Styles” are kind of devious, as they lull the listener to believe that an ambient track is wafting its way into existence. Yet, “My Time for Styles” is at heart a sentimental love song, and before long a gently-picked acoustic guitar, piano accents, and hushed male vocals that sing, “And now the fall is come, so wonderful. For you, the autumn months will never go. And we can fall in love, so magical. The leaves they change and we rule the nightly flow” prove this point. The song is light and breezy, yet retaining a depth with the various underlying drones, intertwining guitar and piano parts, and layered background vocals. The song is a gorgeous introduction to the band, and a timely love song during this season of cool autumn breezes. Guitar and keyboard arrangements that remind me of a meeting of the lighter moments of Sigur Ros, mixed with the whimsical moments of Ester Drang, and the pastoral acoustic guitar work of Early Day Miners greet the listener in the opening strains of “Atop Ravenhill”. Bayta Darell patiently lets these elements play themselves out, before settling down to the resilient lyrics of the sung song by a choir of heavenly falsetto vocals. Even with so much going on in the music and vocals, “Atop Ravenhill” is a relatively stripped down song, and the various elements only cradle the sumptuous melody and set the lyrics in plain view. As the song progresses gently, the lead singer (the liner sheet lists the members of Bayta Darell, but not their specific roles) signs a refrain of “It is well with my soul” as the song winds up with music box chimes.

“Lieutenant and Clown” portray a different side of the band, as the song features 6 minutes of more aggressive and dense guitar playing. Strings are ably incorporated, along with distorted guitars and crashing drums. After the deluge of sounds, “Lieutenant and Clown” (which features lyrics that seem to represent a soldier’s first-hand account of war, and possibly even death, in the context of lost innocence), quietly fades away, leading into the more straightforward “Boffo, Son of Romance”. This oddly-titled song starts out almost as an slowcore song, with a stripped-back drums, bass, and singular guitar supporting another beautifully meandering vocal melody. However, halfway through “Boffo, Son of Romance”, Bayta Darell begins to subtly add keyboards, distorted guitars, and more aggressive drumming into the mix, and before the listener knows it, the band is playing a full volume explosion of rock. The rock of “Boffo, Son of Romance” then resides, and “Set Sails for Mystery” begins with a plodding drum rhythm and heavy bassline. Over top the rhythm section, female background vocals distantly sail, as the lead singer of the band restrains his voice as he sings the main melody. The song, already tense due to the vocals, bass and drums, slowly churns its way to a huge sounding climax, again featuring layers of guitars, belted-out vocals, and plenty of busy drumming. The song then turns on its head, cutting out all of the rock instruments to allow the ghostly female vocals again appear, sung over eerily back-tracked guitars. These vaporous sounds lead into the July Skies-esque “A Seaworthy Love Song”, which features heavily-effected vocals that sound like ghosts singing along with monks in a deserted monastery. Through the end of “Set Sails for Mystery” and “A Seaworthy Love Song”, Bayta Darell portrays a sense of creative exploration, and the band takes risks that most bands would be afraid to commit to tape…and makes them work.

The band continues with the experiments in “Leave No Song Unsung When Forever-Comfort Comes”, which is a two-minute exploration in backwards vocals, strangely bending guitar tones, and, as evidenced by the lyrics that the band prints in the artwork, confessional vocals that illuminate the song and give it a greater emotional and spiritual depth. Next, the band totally expands its sound with the 17 minute long (yes, 17 minutes!) “A Childsoul of Noface”. Featuring only one line of vocals, the song is mainly an exploration of ambient and post-rock, sounding at times similar to a Mogwai as the band combines minutes of drones and found sounds with minutes of more traditional rock compositions. The spacey drones finally lead into “The Merchant Prince”, a dark song featuring mourning drones, brooding vocals, and a gradual crescendo that sends chills up the spine. “Like a Sheet, Like a Curtain” is the song on  Write Me in Metal / Make Me Forever that sounds most like a Sigur Ros or Radiohead song, while not imitating these bands. Gentle drones, unintelligible falsetto vocals, lingering guitar lines, and strings pave the way for the lead vocalist to wail over the music in the song’s climax. The short but soaring rock song “The Mule’s Lament” follows with the band’s most aggressive playing yet, as angular guitar lines battle with crashing drums. Not counting the 25 seconds of silence that make up the final track of the album, Bayta Darell closes Write Me in Metal / Make Me Forever with their two most gorgeous songs.

On “William Canon #2”, the band combines their penchant for creating exploratory music with their ability to write emotional and beautiful melodies. Strange sounds that I think were created with guitars and keyboards (but am not quite sure) breathe through the sparse acoustic guitar and emotional falsetto vocal delivery. The song builds sonically and lyrically to the refrain “You’ve come so far”, and subtly the song shifts into a majestic, dreamy, and elegant climax. The most striking moment this album full of striking moments occurs here, as the lead singer pleads over stunning yet subtle guitar sounds, You’ve come so far along. How will you now share? How now will you care? You’ve come so far”. Absolutely beautiful. Finally, with the listener exhausted emotionally and so drawn into the beauty of the entire album, Write Me in Metal / Make Me Forever finishes off its listener with the devastating “Class of Nuke ‘Em High”. With a strangely familiar vocal melody (all perfect vocal melodies have that element of familiarity to them) sung over guitars drenched in effects, the song begins mercifully, gently leading the listener on. The song masterfully builds with chanted background vocals, sliding guitar parts, and hazier drones, and as parts by part is patiently added to the mix, the listener braces. Indeed, it comes, a totally epic and overwhelming configuration of dense music that the listener drowns in. The noise is intense, huge, powerful, and subsides at the last possible moment to reveal a solitary acoustic guitar, whispered vocals, and gentle guitar accents.

Write Me in Metal / Make Me Forever is one of those shocker of an albums that come along so rarely. Graceful, seething, sensitive, beautiful, intelligent and emotional, this CD is played by a group of musicians who sound like they’re masters of the various subgenres they ambitiously explore. Somehow, a band that seems (according to the group’s bio) to have essentially started out as a garage band has turned in the surprise epic of the year, on their debut recording! Who needs record labels, multi-million dollar studios, and technical gurus when you have the talent to write and execute an album as poised as Write Me in Metal / Make Me Forever on your own terms? Highly recommended.

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