Invasion by IIVIIRelease date: June 23, 2017
Label: Consouling Sounds
IIVII (pronounced ‘ivy’) is the dark ambient solo project of visual artist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Josh Graham. Josh was a founding member of Red Sparowes, Battle of Mice, and A Storm of Light, has been the visual genius behind Neurosis and more recently Soundgarden. He also worked closely with Mastodon, Jesu, Shrinebuilder, ISIS and The Dillinger Escape Plan. To say that he’s a bit of a legend in post-rock and post-metal would be an understatement. So, it was with no small measure of glee that I looked forward to IIVII’s second full-length album, Invasion.
I was not disappointed. The album is a haunting soundscape, layered with a science-fiction edge and incredible attention to detail. While it explores elements of drone, classical, ambient, electronica, and vaporwave, the compositions have as much in common with post-rock as they do atmospheric dark ambient. The album lacks abstract or obtuse moments that are there simply to fill space, favoring a clear course, succinct song structures and a binding narrative. It has incredible sonic breadth, especially at the low-end, and takes the listener on an atmospheric and eerie journey.
The album tells the story of the eradication of humanity at the hands (appendages?) of an alien race looking for a new homeworld. But like Graham’s previous work, there is a poignant underlying political and moral perspective at heart. We humans live on a tiny little rock somewhere in some non-descript part of a non-descript solar system in a non-descript galaxy. And yet we lack the sense of our own smallness and spend our time building walls, divisions, and fighting over stupid things. The last three songs are titled ‘We Live’, ‘You Die’, ‘Sanctuary’. There is no tear shed among the alien conquerors, or Graham, for humanity’s demise here.
The accompanying videos are at least as impressive, if not more so, than the album itself and are best watched in conjunction. There are two so far, one for ‘Painless’ and one for ‘Hidden Inside’. All were made by Graham, showcasing how accomplished he is in marrying the two artforms into a cohesive item. The videos are excellent. ‘Painless’, in particular, is one of the best videos I’ve seen.
Writing ambient music has been a bit of a trend over the past few years for heavy rockers. We’ve had excellent work in this genre from Wolves in the Throne Room and Ivar Bjorson of Enslaved. For Graham, however, the decision to play electronic music was driven more by a desire to showcase experimental tracks that underpinned live performances with his band, A Storm of Light. This origin is partly why IIVII, for all the synths and creepy sound effects, carries an organic sensibility. The guitar may have been put down for this, but live drum elements are evident and the synths are fat and round. It helps to listen to the album on a good audio system with a healthy bass response. The audio quality is extraordinary, especially at the low end. The album is wasted on poor quality speakers.
Invasion will be released on June 23rd through Belgium independent label Consouling Sounds.