By: Charlie Gardner

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Released on May 13, 2016 via Consouling Sounds

How do you like your coffee? Recently I’ve taken to drinking a triple flat-white, which for me has just the right balance of milk and coffee and a satisfying kick at the end. But a Triple Sun coffee, now that would be an altogether different bean-to-cup experience: a long and very dark brew (without a hint of milk or extra water in sight) served in an abyss-like container, but an undeniably rewarding one if you drink right down to the bottom.

Formed in 2011, Triple Sun has been something of a side project for Massimo Pupillo, David Chalmain and Raphaël Séguiner (three eminent musos with diverse backgrounds of metal, classical, jazz and minimalism) of whom bassist Pupillo, co-founder of Zu, is the most familiar. Recorded in two different cities during from 2014–15, The City Lies in Ruins is a debut that has been brewed with drip-filter deliberation into a blend that is certainly true to all three of its principal creators, but one that might be a little too unrelentingly dense for some.

The first thing to say is that this is a heavy bevvy that can only be sampled in one sitting. No point in taking small sips: every track segues into the next (creating the impression of small movements with a grander symphonic whole) and what narrative there is sweeps in an arc from the first minute to the last. Drink it steadily, but drink it in one or you’ll never really get it.

For what we have here is a doom-driven, post-rock, tone poem; a construction capable of taking you on a remarkable sensory journey if you’re happy to stay on board from beginning to end, and willing to surrender to the darkness. And dark it is – the title alone suggests a setting of destruction, and track names such as ‘Hole in the Sky’, ‘Building an Ark’ and ‘There Are Weapons’ maintain that conceit in a 41-minute, post-apocalyptic vision of imploded worlds and lost souls.

Musically it swirls from one shade of charcoal to another, barely ever rising above mid-tempo, driven primarily by Pupillo’s rattle-and-hum bass lines and Chalmain’s banshee guitar refrains; while Séguiner’s drums, in apt monotony, simply mark time for the most part, but break out with real force when required to. It’s a lo-fi mix, full of distortion and added electronics and overdubs that verge on noise and industrial in places (including what sounds like deliberate hiss on ‘Hole in the Sky’) topped with curious, hushed vocals and harmonies, some of them whisper quiet, that are almost OM-like mantras.

Trying to navigate an overall narrative from the stream of consciousness lyrics is challenging: “she comes back home / she’s full of scars / blood is on her lips/ don’t dare to ask”; and only snatches of them are truly audible, leaving a feeling that the intent is to affect the listener subliminally. But if you’re looking for some kind of key then William S. Burroughs may have it. For bridging ‘A Gift’ and ‘The Spell’, it is his withering voice, in a mash-up of sound bites from his cultiest of cult novels, that intones “How does it feel to be one of the last human beings?” (A sentiment that is mirrored by “I am alone now” in the title track.) But if you’re seeking more meaning than this, “don’t dare to ask…”

And this, in some ways, is the flaw in this album. Not so much that it’s deliberately obfuscating, but that, both lyrically and musically, it’s a door left ajar… a conversation that you hear in snatches, but you can’t quite get a handle on. It’s a composition that might work brilliantly in a live concert setting, you feel, but only with a Godspeed!-style Super-8 video jockey adding a layer of visual exposition.

I think that’s a justifiable criticism, but if I stuck with it I’d surely be missing the point: Triple Sun view the world through a glass darkly; and this is an album that shuns analysis and demands you feel it. In fact, Burroughs has it down perfectly with his comment at the beginning of ‘The Spell’: “the way out is the way in…” That is to say, the way in to this album is to let yourself get way out with it.

In coffee terms, stop worrying about whether that on-trend drip cone was made of cherry, white oak or ash and simply imbibe. Wait for the witching hour, put on your headphones and play this album its entirety; find that way in through the (rabbit) ‘Hole in the Sky’, and be prepared for an unnerving out-of-body experience that transports you into the mind of the narrator – one that caffeine alone (or even something stronger) could never give you.

Hypnotic and entrancing, The City Lies in Ruins may not be psychedelia, but it’s certainly Trip-le Sun.

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