You can tell an album’s good when you put it on with the firm intention of listening and doing something else at the same time and instead just end up sitting, drawn physically into the music until your willpower is utterly drained and the warm tones wash over you like the soothing waves of the mid-summer sea. ‘In Tenebris’ by Le Mur is such an album, the music a heady mix of Karma To Burn-esque stoner, Tool-referencing dynamic prog rock, Mogwai-ish post rock and gutsy blues. Ultimately, for all of these reference points, Le Mur end up sounding like no-one but themselves and their warm, beguiling sound is one to which you will willingly return time and again having once been hooked.
Opening with the creepy organ work of ‘O.m.e.n – the beginning’ which features barely-heard voices muttering in the darkness as someone fires up a pipe, the first track proper is the nearly twelve-minute long ‘cage’ which opens to the sound of ominous bass work before introducing the most skeletal rock ‘n’ roll riffing imaginable. It’s dark and stormy but not exactly doom and, as the pace picks up, you start to fear that your trapped in the path of a juggernaut that is rapidly picking up speed as it approaches. You can feel the trapped tension just waiting to explode outwards as the percussion and guitars grind and spark against one another, the riffs worshipping at the altar of Homme and Iommi, the bassist clearly on part-time secondment from Dracula’s band of the undead, and when vocals do arrive (briefly), some three and a half-minutes in, they’re reminiscent of The Drum (China Drum turned industrial) and Deus at their most rocking. It’s a great start to the album as the music begins to flow with ever increasing speed and the hard-wound tension finally snaps as the guitars are allowed to trample freely over everything in their path following a Pink Floyd-referencing psychedelic mid-section. Heading into the free-form psychedelic territory of Earthless and The Doors for ‘one way ticket to space’ (via a short, untitled segue), Le Mur roll out some truly spacey Eastern vibes for a track which perfectly captures the heady vibes of ‘saucerful of secrets’ and combines it with the aforementioned influences for a track that will leave you with a contact high just from listening to it. It is fuzzy, intelligently written and beautifully played, and it is the sort of music that can turn an afternoon into a fascinating trip into your own subconscious especially with the Jim Morrison-style vocals floating woozily over the top.
‘Die nacht der emuren (teil 3)’ slows the pace for a slightly creepy take on jazz influenced rock music with vocals echoing amidst the sparse arrangement before saxophone and sound effects take over dragging the song sideways into Sonic Youth territory for no apparent reason other than Le Mur enjoy defeating your expectations every time with an ease that would seem dismissive if it wasn’t so utterly enthralling. The title track segues straight out of its predecessor and it’s a track that delves back into the tense dynamic of the opening number for a fast paced, bass-led number that operates exclusively to its own rules, sounding gloriously like nothing else out there, except perhaps Hawkwind, as the bass takes you on a journey that roams the universe before closing in on the source of the Gregorian-styled interplanetary vocals before zooming back into the cosmos for the climactic guitar pyrotechnics. The organ returns for the mad-as-a-fish-in-wellies concluding number ‘O.m.e.n – riddles in the dark’ which is all cheesy organ and driving bass until a moment of calm is introduced by the soulful, sensuous sax last seenon ‘Die nacht…’ It is a masterly conclusion that sees the album as a circular journey that heads back to its beginning even as it is spinning to an end.
It is hard to characterise Le Mur within the parameters of a standard review – those desperate for a genre may as well make their own up, for so broad is Le Mur’s canvas that they take in all manner of sounds and styles form the last forty years and twist and turn them into something new and beautiful. Genuinely progressive in that the music here breaks all acceptable boundaries of what you can and can’t do in modern rock music whilst simultaneously sounding both cohesive and exciting, this is music for those who love to explore the outer reaches of the musical world. Dense without being impenetrable, exciting without pandering to commercial desires and stunning without being predictable ‘In Tenebris’ is a gloriously original and exciting outing.
Find out more about this awesome band at www.le-mur.net