Hailing from New Orleans, Belong recorded October Language before the sweeping destruction of Hurricane Katrina. But – and perhaps this is reading too much into it – October Language is a perfect soundtrack to a post-Katrina New Orleans. The band’s instrumental compositions – dreamlike and bathed in layers of distortion – are a fitting accompaniment to the aftermath of any tragedy, whether large-scale or personal.
Music with these qualities must be ambiguous in nature, suffused with equal parts light and darkness, hope and despair. This ambiguity is a defining feature of Belong’s sound. Although October Language is divided into eight tracks, the album works well as one extended piece. With subtle variations in tone, purring buzz-saw guitars hum above slow-breaking waves of ambient sound to create an all-encompassing dream world in which we’re eternally alive and already dead.
Belong will inevitably be saddled with comparisons to fellow travelers such as My Bloody Valentine and Flying Saucer Attack, but it’s the amorphousness of the band’s music that should make it appealing to fans of a wide range of sub-genres. If dirty break-beats and distorted vocals were added, Belong’s sound would be akin to hip-hop fringe-dwellers such as Techno Animal or Dalek. Similarly, fans of Mogwai or Godspeed You Black Emperor could get into this if they’re willing to part with the cheap emotional uplift provided by those bands’ reliance on slow-building minor-key crescendos.
And some people won’t be able to get into this at all, thinking it sounds like a vacuum cleaner roaring overtop an Enya record. That’s fine, too.
October Language brings to mind the hazy, haunting scores Angelo Badalamenti has produced for many a David Lynch film. Think of the band at the Twin Peaks Roadhouse playing an endless set, droning into the eternal night while an audience of backward-talking idiot savants attempts to impart the mysteries of the universe to anyone who will listen.
But that’s just me. Like a discussion of the future of New Orleans itself, October Language is open for analysis, subject to endless interpretations that, in the end, are as true as you wish them to be.
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