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Friday, January 18, 2008

I Didn’t Think I Would

posted by on January 18 at 11:38 AM

But I really like the new Rings CD.


Black Habit
(Paw Tracks)

Though they probably mean it as a joke, the “jungle” description on Rings’ MySpace page isn’t that far off. The female trio’s first album as Rings (they were formerly known as First Nation), Black Habit’s concoction of field noises, chanting, singing, and layers of instrumentation (piano, synthesizer, drums, guitar, tambourine, etc.) sounds weirdly tribal, almost ritualistic. They’re noises that would make the most sense in another world—in the middle of the threatening, dizzyingly thick jungle.

In the third track, “Is He Handsome,” one girl starts gasping, and the noise is awful. It sounds like she’s dying; it sounds like she’s breaking the surface of water just long enough to take the one breath before being pulled back under. The gentle (albeit haunting) harmonies take the edge off, but only for a second. Then the rest of the environment attacks, swarming with synthesizers that sound like tiny, scary creatures. The gasping gets worse, more desperate, and a voice asks with giddy panic, “Is he handsome? Is he handsome?” The reply: “I want to run, I want to leave, I want to escape from fear.” And so it goes for many more minutes.

Only two songs on the eight-track disc come in under the five-minute mark. But the beginnings and the ends of each track are unclear (only a subtle, quick break in beat patterns suggests a new song has begun), so that the entire record feels circular, appropriately, like a ring. It’s a lot to take in.

But while the noise sculptures on Black Habit constantly verge on overbearing, Rings carefully keep things just slightly more intriguing than off-putting. You won’t want to turn it off until you know the gasping girl is okay, and even then you may never be sure.

Click here to hear “Is He Handsome” (via My Big Mouth Strikes Again).

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