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Black Earth
Format: CD / LP / MP3
Release Date: April 20, 2011
By Dave Cantor May 31, 2011

Black Earth arrives sturdy enough to dispense with all the shoegaze references. Jesus and Mary Chain just aren’t that great. Seriously. Whether or not Implodes, a Chicago quartet dealing in stoned simplicity, agree is moot. The band’s able to push through tired forebears, forging something of a singular sound, if not unfettered by sonic antecedents. Kraut influence seem to be as easily applied to musics of this sort as anything else. And with Black Earth’s cover being a distant cousin to Amon Düül II’s Yeti (Liberty, 1970), it’s not a fallacious connection to make. Just one that doesn’t matter.

Most of what Black Earth dispenses is doused with reverb to the point that everything but a drum beat finds itself obscured. As a significant portion of the disc is instrumental – or at least includes long passages of what could be extensions of Mills College thesis projects – hearing “White Window” slowly stumble to its conclusion might be the easiest way to understand the group. There’s no recognizable guitar, just washes of sound. Tones masquerading as songcraft. Oddly, the track works whether listeners pay strict attention or head into the other room to finish the dishes. The song’s almost not there. Contrasting that methodical pacing, the following “Screech Owl” works in an acoustic guitar, finding Implodes augmenting its approach just enough to include an instrument not generally associated with music sporting this personality. Quickly, the composition moves back to a heavily distorted and plodding work topped off with distant, moaned vocals and a bit of spoken word.

Listening to Black Earth in its entirety can happen accidentally. With the average song length pushing four-plus minutes and each track being based on roughly the same concept, the disc winds up feeling like sound art one might accidentally stumble upon if walking into the wrong art gallery. Separating Implodes from a wealth of other groups trucking in the ethereal – and Chicago seems rife with that  – is the group’s relative restraint. Sure, drones being merged with pop comes replete with problems, but Implodes doesn’t get too haughty about it. Sometimes the vocals even work out. Try getting “Meadowslands” out of your head.

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