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Post-Rock Supergroup Inventions Conjure Transfixing Debut

SPIN Rating: 7 of 10
Release Date: April 01, 2014
Label: Temporary Residence Ltd.

Can there be such a thing as an ambient music supergroup? Feels like a contradiction in terms: Two titans of sonic landscape design join forces to show the phonies how it’s done. Yeah, no, it’s hard to make ambient music sound bad-ass. But so what if Inventions aren’t Damn Yankees. The duo, comprised of Explosions in the Sky guitarist Mark T. Smith and Eluvium mastermind Matthew Cooper, has turned in a debut album that’s perfectly befitting their post-rock bona fides.

Inventions works for all the reasons post-rock ambient experimental noise-scape music is supposed to work. It features glacial builds with satisfying crescendos; guitars that twinkle like stars in a desert sky; electric static obscuring dulcet melodies; sub-bass that works more like a drawn-out bear hug than something with rhythmic purpose, enveloping you in a prolonged, low-end thrum. The song titles serve to describe the whole enterprise: “Flood Poems,” “Luminous Insects,” “Psychic Automation.”

The record is more Eluvium than Explosions in the Sky, more melodious wash than determined march toward a fourth-quarter upset. (I’ve got vegetables growing with more urgency than some of these tracks.) While there are certainly moments that evoke EITS’s dramatic splendor, what’s here doesn’t so much explode as catch layer after layer of updraft, gathering altitude then dipping down again. “Flood Poems” rides undulating waves of pensive chords to an obliquely gratifying climax that features a dude chanting; it’s cooler than it sounds. “Sun Locations / Sun Coda” starts off with tribal, Animal Collective-like psychedelic thumping, then fades to a playful din, like what you’d hear if you switched on a HAM radio and accidentally picked up an alien jam session. Elsewhere, the sonorous whir of “Luminous Insects” sounds like Fuck Buttons impersonating Brian Eno. It all comes to a close with “Psychic Automation,” the somewhat obligatory post-rock finale wherein ambient order devolves to a cacophony of swirling noise, a black hole sucking up all the other instruments (hey there goes a banjo!) before everything implodes and we’re done. Hey, it’s no “High Enough,” but it is a damn fine collection of selected ambient works.