Altar Eagle: Mechanical Gardens
Published: January 5, 2011
Given Mechanical Gardens’ early fall 2010 release, we are admittedly batting cleanup on this. But given how perfectly the record fits into the indieground’s current affection for coldwave-ish pop tunes, and that Altar Eagle has gone mostly unnoticed outside of the electronic music hive and the solid base of listeners that are way into Type Records, it is fair to unearth it here. Such a sublime marriage of industrial dread and pretty, defiantly hopeful crystalline pop leaves an indelible mark on the ears, a weird but extremely familiar fabric of postgenre scraps. Consider Mechanical Gardens another sort of postnoise, one that knows how to reintroduce humans to the bleak machine and does so with deft, delicate care.
Altar Eagle is the project of Brad Rose and his wife Eden Hemming Rose, with the former most often heard as a purveyor of end-times power-drone/noise as the North Sea (and the indispensable online music zine Foxy Digitalis, and its Digitalis label parent). And if the North Sea is about the end-times, then Altar Eagle is about the what’s-left, turning that hopelessness of industrial drone into gauzy melody and repurposed techno scraps. Imagine a super-liberated Cold Cave—or even the xx—coldwave that can be lush and even betray some warmness or at least hope—which, here, leaves coldwave’s resilient icy feeling as theatrical as it is.
While Gardens is a weird sort of post-noise record, it does so by way of being a post-everything record at the same time. In all that fuzz and feedback, Gardens is deep in shoegaze/Jesus and Mary Chain debt; and the way tracks build and loop/layer, it’s also leaning on techno. A song like “You Lost Your Neon Haze” is, meanwhile, one of the record’s moments of perfection and where it isn’t like much at all, a foggy lullaby chasing after an air raid’s sense of doom delivered so precisely via a buzz deeply embedded in the mix that keeps gaining in pitch like those first chest twinges of a grand panic attack. So pretty, but it feels like standing on top of a very, very high precipice with its mix of grandeur and vertigo. Or “Pour Your Dark Heart Out,” which is even more overt about that tense dualism, shimmering and skittering voice and electronics over what sounds like some angry spirit shackled in the mix. It all becomes exhausting, but the sort of exhaustion to which you can’t help returning.
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