Originally written by Erik Thomas
With members of Isis, Halifax Pier and Neurosis and residing on Neurot Recordings you should have some idea as to what Red Sparowes sounds like; a sprawling instrumental soundscape similar in scope to Pelican but without the crushing peaks. Red Sparowes is more relaxed and thoughtful and may actually disappoint those waiting for the resonant climaxes of Isis or the rending peaks of Neurosis as Red Sparowes stay pretty much level throughout.
With seven songs, and over an hour long, At the Soundless Dawn isn’t a drive to work sort of album, as it requires a full on escapist surrounding to allow you to be carried by its warm tones and lush, natural atmospheres. The lengthy, typically brooding sounds are not as claustrophobic as the band members other projects and again never really peaks with intensity, but more atypically drones with a ominous, spatial awareness that something ‘might’ be coming; the album is rife with a sort of musical anticipation that never appears, leaving the listener blinded by its introspective brilliance but at the same time not quite satiated. The wordy track titles (i.e. ; “The Collapse Crept up Slowly, Like The Sunlight Through The Shutters, As We Looked Back In Regret”) form up to tell a cryptic story rather than having lyrics, but the songs don’t differ in mood too much to convey the story.
The waves of strumming and hypnotic riffs do offer up a superbly eloquent ambiance that’s suitably hypnotic but hard to distinguish from track to track. Inevitable comparisons to Isis and Neurosis are bound to come up as you hear the lull of opener “Alone and Unaware, The Landscape Was Transformed in Front of Our Eyes” but the soft ebb of the music is where the similarity ends and Red Sparowes keep their sound at a steady calm, rather than undulate with mountains and valleys of sonic girth. You could cite God Speed You! Black Emperor as a reference point for the way the songs build then flatten out with a sense of terse ambience rather than explode with force. “Buildings Began to Stretch Wide Across the Sky, And the Air Filled With a Reddish Glow” seems slightly more urgent than the opener but melds into the peaceful acoustics of the title track. The eleven minute “Mechanical Sounds Cascaded through the City Walls and Everyone Reveled in Their Ignorance” starts with an apt mechanical drone before settling into a more familiar cascading tone. Basically Red Sparowes material comes across as all of the softer moments of Isis and Pelican combined and the heaviness removed in lieu of shimmering elegance. “A Brief Moment of Clarity Broke through the Deafening Hum, But It Was Too Late” brings a strangely upbeat tempo to the up to this point rather unemotional material, with even with a slight country twang in the back ground. Closer “The Collapse Crept Up Slowly, Like Sunlight Through the Shutters, As we Looked Back in Regret” at twenty minutes contains a needless lengthy injection of silence, but other wise is a thoughtful, perfect endnote to the proceedings, but again is virtually indistinguishable form the rest of the likeminded songs.
At the Soundless Dawn is either hazy cigar room background music for ‘artistes’, or trance inducing other worldly instrumental meditation music that requires your full attention to soak up its instrumental awareness and drift into nothingness. Either way, it should come with one of those warning stickers that comes on pain killers; “May Cause drowsiness; Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while listening to this album”.