Review: “Slumber, savage beasts” by Aural Method

Slumber, savage beasts
In lonesome winter forest
Breath deep your chorus

This eloquent haiku serves as the conceptual framework for the sophomore effort from Matt Kidd who makes beautiful ambient post-rock soundscapes under the moniker Aural Method. The new album came as something of a surprise so soon on the heels of Matt’s December release, “When I Drifted I Heard a Faint Melody”. I’ll just lay my cards on the table now. I love this record. The concept, the music, the execution are all beautifully delivered in perfect package that sounds great from the first spin, but unfolds with even more subtle enjoyment on each repeat.

In describing how the record was made, Matt explains that each line of the haiku was rendered as a song, the core of which was recorded live in a room on guitar, bass, and drums with no isolation. That means that that he, bassist Zach Hendricks, and drummer Cody Smith had to rely on genuine musicianship and chemistry to create the elegant sonic landscape that the record presents. All that was added afterwards were strings from Aimee Norris on cello and Andy Shelton on violin with minimal layering. The end result is handcrafted, chamber post-rock that is both warm and captivating.

Now, this is not to devalue the art of sound engineering or any of the wonderful records that have been created using a more process-centric approach. But, Matt’s method (pun intended) is noteworthy because of the level of craft and artistry on the part of each musician that was required to pull it off. And it is refreshing in this genre to hear something this beautiful that sounds like a performance.

The title track, ‘Slumber, savage beasts’, is also noteworthy for a something not heard often in a post-rock idiom, and that is slide guitar. Matt uses it sparingly, but to dramatic effect in an exhilarating crescendo that occurs around the fifth minute. The middle track, ‘In a lonesome strike winter forest’ evokes a more plaintive mood befitting the title, beginning with a chorus of ethereal voices that sets the tone beautifully. The last line of the haiku, ‘Breathe deep your chorus’ is granted the longest running time as the closing track, and features some outstanding, nuanced work on the drums to gently propel the song, but sustain the mood as the guitars and strings alternate carrying the melody leading to a majestic outro. Each piece works wonderfully both standing alone and as part of the conceptual whole.

There are, however, only three lines in a haiku and there are five tracks on the album. The other two tracks serve as caesuras, or poetic pauses, and they were, according to Matt, developed as ambient pieces using a more layered process similar to his previous record. Nevertheless, they retain an organic sound that perfectly fits the record, with voices and strings being very prominent. You could be forgiven during the second caesura for briefly thinking that you had suddenly lapsed into listening to Sigur Ros as Matt layers a very Jonsi like vocal into the mix, but it works well and remains a very Aural Method piece and is by no means a copy of another style.

All in all, “Slumber, savage beasts” is very satisfying record and one that firmly establishes we now have another creative force on the Texas post rock scene that can legitimately stand beside the venerable Explosions in the Sky as shining examples of the state of the art. And, best of all, you can enjoy all this goodness for just pennies more than it would cost for your favorite venti-sized coffee beverage and it will stick with you for a lot longer. Accompanying the review is Matt’s official YouTube post of the title track. See if the hair doesn’t stand up on the back of your neck when that slide guitar kicks in. Mine does, every time.

Aural Method releases on Bandcamp

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