Friday, July 22, 2011

Locrian - "Dort ist der Weg b/w Frozen In Ash" (2011) [Flingco Sound System]

Popol Vuh is one of those bands where if you even think about covering it, you better fucking mean it. When I had first heard of Locrian's plans to release a cover of "Dort ist der Weg" off of Popol Vuh's Letzte Tage, Letzte Nachte, that was the only thought truly running through my mind. Yes, all of you know I adore Locrian, as they are probably one of my favorite bands out of Chicago, but when you commit to covering such a "sacred" song in the world of krautrock, it better shine. It's weird to doubt a band you truly admire; I mean, Locrian's the only band who can be Locrian, after all. Who else can effortlessly move about the black metal, noise, doom, post-rock, drone, and psychedelic spheres while still retaining that coherent "We are still the same band" sort of sound? Except for maybe Yakuza, Locrian still remains Chicago, if not the United States' strongest cohesive genre experimenters.

So what is to be said of their take on "Dort ist der Weg," anyway? Well, it sure is different from the original, but that is what I was hoping. While retaining Florian Fricke's immediately recognizable melodies, Locrian brilliantly turned "Dort" into their own masterpiece. This sluggish, dreamy tribute to the great Popol Vuh shows Locrian's textural painting skills at their absolute finest. The fact that they put a cover as the A side of the vinyl is especially interesting, considering cover recordings normally lie in obscurity in the back. It is almost as if Locrian themselves are proclaiming, "This might be a cover, but we have made it ours," and they most definitely have. If you were to show this to a Locrian fan without telling them it was a cover, they would just assume it was just an original without even questioning that. By making it theirs, Locrian's appropriation of Popol Vuh's "Dort ist der Weg" is an appropriate tribute to the original, if not for how awesome it is on its own, but for demonstrating just how far their contemporaries have come.

The B-side, the blistering "Frozen in Ash," starts off almost in medias res, or right in the middle of the action. Like the most wonderful cheese grater scraping at your eardrum, this harsh, trebley, psychedelic black metal tune howls like a banshee trapped in your speakers, and yet, from the chaos, emerges a peculiarly memorable psychedelic rock jam. Led by pianos with acoustic guitars, lingering distortion and drums taking the backseat, I almost get the feeling of being safe inside, watching a torrential rainstorm pass by outside. Once you view the horror from a safe place, it takes on an entirely different beauty all its own, however terrifying it may be.

I had never thought of Locrian as a krautrock band before, but this "cover" pretty much convinced me. I mean, bands ranging from This Heat to even Grails are considered krautrock, why not extend the definition over to the more metallic side of things? Throughout their discography you will hear echoes of Tangerine Dream, Amon Duul II, This Heat and countless other classics strewn among the ethereal guitars and keyboards, but once they recorded a "doom metal" album, it's almost as if they sealed their classification deal. But then you look at Locrian's discography, and the whole idea of constant reinvention comes to mind, which begs the question "Isn't krautrock centered around definition?" and the answer is a clear yes. When put next to each other, This Heat and Tangerine Dream sound nothing alike, and yet they are placed under the krautrock tag without any fuss from either side. Maybe it's time we bestow the honor upon Locrian of placing them side-by-side with the likes of Neu! or Popol Vuh.

Be sure to get this limited 7" (only 500 copies), set to be released this September, from FlingCo Sound System soon!


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