Below the Sea: Blame it on the Past (Where are My Records, 2005)

by Jason

below the sea blameHailing from Quebec, Below the Sea is an instrumental trio that has enlisted the help of Ulrich Schnauss and Mathieu Grise of Destroyalldreamers for their third full-length, Blame it on the Past. Being a three piece, they bring to the table a simplicity that is beautiful and subtle in its execution. These elements are accented by their guest contributors’ expertise in ambience and electronic moods.

“Anonymity” begins this disc with simple drum work and bass that holds the song together, allowing the guitar to fade in and out, with layers playing off one another. The bass and drums become the transport vehicle for the guitar’s airy and glimmering symphony. The ambient textures play wonderfully off of the guitar work. Eventually this all almost fades and a more complex arrangement comes into the mix with blankets of ambience floating among the bass, drums and guitar. “As Is” begins with a guitar hum and intricate snare work that leads into guitars playing the melody over superb bass work and beautiful violin provided by Andrée-Anne Lacharité. “Ceremonies” is a slow tempo song with some piano and glittering guitar. What one notices is that the timing signatures in their compositions are impressive. Ditching a straightforward 4/4 time signature, Below the Sea creates an impressive array of creative drum signatures which really fill out the song and keep things really very interesting. This track ends with electronic warbles and fades out.

“Stroll Down Memory Lane” begins with a thoughtful and pensive guitar line that fills out with a soft drone and minimalistic bass and drum work. The mood is beautifully crafted, urging the listener to be contemplative. This track becomes fuller than the previous ones and is just breathtaking, with the ever impressive Ulrich Schnauss on keys. “Sleigh Bells” follows with a very quiet, fuzzy click, mixed with humming guitar cascading through the mix. Piano accents the track as it heads toward a fuller sound with recorder, clarinet, and acoustic guitar. What I like about the arrangement is that the album continues to build with each song, but the tracks never overpower the listener. Impressive in it’s scope, “Sleigh Bells” conjures up everything good about winter: the fresh air, white landscapes, and being cozy in one’s home with loved ones.

“Polaroids” has jazz style drums and glittering guitar. Again, the bass work is impressive and helps to glue all the pieces together. Again, drones playfully mix and mingle in between all the instrumentation. Hand claps dot the musical landscape for more complex percussive elements. The guitars play gleefully as they are layered and fade in and out of the mix. “Light at Night” has a quiet beginning and builds quickly. Midway through this track, a low hum and electronic glitches fill the spaces between the drums and bass. The glitches, as I listen to them, sound like sampled Dolphin sounds. “Careful Confrontations” begins with glistening sounds that could be effects on a guitar or keys. The bass drones in between the guitar lines and simple drum work. Piano eventually becomes up front in the mix and adds a beautiful contrast to the guitar work. Guitars eventually turn fuzzy within the layers. Rounding out the album is “Well Water.” This track begins with guitars weeping within toms and patient bass work. Acoustic guitar comes into the mix along with a tambourine. The track is patient and careful in its tempo and composition.

Impressive in scope and depth, this is certainly a collection of mature compositions that, collectively, hang together well. The album is consistent for the first to the last note. Able to convey beautifully emotive moments, Below the Sea is brilliant in every regard and Where Are My Records has hit another home-run with this band on its roster.

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