Fresh Stream

THE UNQUIET GRAVE – WHEN THE SMOKE CLEARED

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The Unquiet Grave straddles the line of today’s social media immediacy – he has self-released two short EPs of processional, enshrouded gothic folk for each completed month of the year so far, but has done so anonymously and almost secretively. The moniker exhumes an English ballad that has passed from oral tradition to 19th century anthology to 60s folk revival repertoire, in which a young man mourns his dead love for so long that her spirit confronts him for disturbing her rest. Essentially, the speaker is a morbid Narcissus who gazes at himself in the mental reflection of the grave.

This helps contextualize the three subtle, semi-static meditations on When the Smoke Cleared. “Goodbye, Moon” is equal parts post-apocalyptic trash fire narrative and The Doors’ white-washed shamanism, with droning arpeggiations and gyrating modal moans intertwined in open space. The second-delay echo on the vocals overlaps the melody onto itself, perverting the clarity of new words and notes with the memory of the old. “Dawn of Death (For Jandek)” does much the same with two thin guitar lines that clash in non-chord tone counterpoint over a single marching strum. “Exodus (When God Abandoned Us)” adds some organ and textural fuzz, but is also primarily a wavering twelve string wandering endlessly over common-tone harmonic undulation.

So the songs feel atemporal in their free-form minimalist variation, but they’re also as claustrophobic and cannibalizing as breathing in a vault. The core of this record is this paradox of folk music: the moody, modern folkie huffs the noxious fumes of a dead tradition but also raises a spirit to sing out from the grave.”

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