Friday, October 28, 2011

Preterite - "Pillar of Winds" (2011) [Handmade Birds Records]

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard of Quebecois experimental duo Menace Ruine, whose two most recent full-lengths of droning, noise-drenched, sophisticated martial folk have caught the eye of metal, neofolk, and noise fans alike. Before reading about Preterite's imminent album release on Handmade Birds Records, I had no idea either member of Menace Ruine had any other side projects (and it turns out S. de la Moth has a side project, as well), so my surprise spoke volumes about how high the stakes were set for this album. Of course, I had no idea who played what instrument in Menace Ruine, so I wasn't exactly sure what to...expect from Preterite, though I knew that Genevieve's immense voice was to grace Pillar of Winds and that alone was worth my time. However, going in almost completely blind is a rare occurrence, so who really knows what to expect?

Well, I definitely learned a few things from Preterite's debut album Pillar of Winds. For one, Genevieve Beaulieu is the source of all the immense guitar work found throughout Menace Ruine's discography. Maybe I'm sexist, but I always had a notion that Genevieve sang and performed the synthesizer/programmed the drum computer and S. de la Moth took care of all the guitar work. I blame the centuries of masculine imagery associated with the guitar, but, looking back, it is definitely nice to have some clarification on Menace Ruine's lineup.

What else did I learn? It turns out that Genevieve's expansive take on the guitar translates incredibly well into a droning folk setting. I guess I really should have expected that, given Menace Ruine's martial folk leanings, but I didn't really think that Preterite's Pillar of Winds was going to be the massive slab of hypnotic, powerful, Nico-esque drone folk that it is. Paired with fellow experimental musician James Hamilton, who adds strings, harmonium, and lush, bass-heavy piano to Beaulieu's dreamy walls of guitar and powerful, soaring alto voice. A distinct lack of percussion imbues Pillar of Winds with a dense, flowing quality, not unlike a thick, billowing fog, lurching just past your ears until the final parting seconds of the fifteen-minute closer "Viriditas." Never leaving a funereal pace, Beaulieu and Hamilton entrance the listener with haunting, open drones and detached, otherworldly voices. Together these two musicians have more than succeeded in creating an intelligent, mournful masterpiece.

Like a doomed Nico or amplified Joan Baez, Preterite's Pillar of Winds is a delightfully dark concoction of psychedelic folk, Flying Saucer Attack-like post-rock, and Beaulieu and Hamilton's incredible sense of singular sound through such a variety of textures. A brilliant, if not unexpected effort from an extraordinarily talented pair of musicians. Available on compact disc from the fantastic Handmade Birds Records, limited to 500 copies. Don't sleep on this one.



  1. from looking at live photos of Menace Ruine, I don't think either of them play guitars. I've heard from other people that all of the guitar-like sounds on their recordings are manipulated and distorted synths as well.

  2. Too "joan Baez" for these ears...


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