We’re reaching the point in the year where I’m going to have to do a lot of driving in what likely is to be fairly bad weather conditions. I oddly enjoy that, though, because that means a lot of family visits over the holidays, but with all that mileage, having the right music to accompany me is a huge key.
My first visit with the new split LP combining Sea Witch and Black Tremor instantly made me think of those drives, and at the time of this writing, it’s snowing, and the music here has sounded great along with it as I’ve done some minimal travel. Both these bands are instrumental units and draw upon very different sections of heavy music. There’s enough similarities, though, to make their union make sense and these songs work together. Released by Sunmask Records, this five-track collection brings with it bruising power, chilling sentiment, and a blast of mind-enhancing songs that might be able to make your winter a little less harrowing. Or maybe more so? Depends on what you’re seeking, I guess.
Sea Witch hail from Nova Scotia and are a two-piece featuring JL on guitars and bass and SJ on drums, and they’ve only been making noise for two years now. But in that time, the band has produced a couple of demo recordings, as well as their self-titled full-length debut last year (it gets regular play on my Bandcamp app). Here, the band unleashes three tracks of dark, atmospheric doom that is heavy, thought-provoking, and even a little bit gazey. They’re definitely the heaviest of the two bands, making you think of being lost at night, at sea, with waves churning your belly and you imagining instant doom at a source you can’t identify.
Their share of the tracks starts with “Green Tide,” as sounds blend together, guitars crash, and the pace hulks along. The track trudges over gravel, as gazey sounds flood into the picture, and a strong burst of playing arrives. If you start feeling like your head is swelling, you’re not alone, as the song rolls through various colors before fading away. “As the Crow Flies (Part 1)” has an influx of sounds that pull into storming sludge and eventually a melodic glaze. The melody slithers through as the music wails and crumbles, and a sense of drubbing sorrow begins to take over and move things toward the second portion of “As the Crow Flies.” The crushing mauling is slow driving, pressing your face into the ground before all the elements cascade to the ground. Guitars cry out as sadness emerges, and from there, gloomy playing leaves a black pall, and guitars chew bones to the end.
As for Black Tremor, their music also pulls from a post-rock atmosphere, but it’s grittier and dustier, something you could take with you on a late-evening trip across the West. Fittingly, they hail from the Western portion of Canada, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, (dumb fact: Bret Hart won his first WWF title in that town) and their music sounds like it’s a product of their surroundings. The band—bassist Alex Deighton, violin player Amanda Bestvater, and drummer Brennan Rutherford—released their debut record “Impending” last year, and their two songs here are parts of a dual tale they’re spreading out before us. Their music is riveting, moving, and ideal for when the moon breaks the horizon.
The Black Tremor cuts are two portions of a song called “Hexus.” The first basks in serenity as clean tones flow out, and the drums start to kick in. Things get a little jazzy as the strings surge and cut, and slide guitar starts its weeping. The melodies feel rustic and swollen, as an awesome, burly tone makes its way through the cut, and that thickness remains until the first part bleeds out. The second part has the violin mourning and a dusty path being tread. The strings then wrap themselves around rusty guitars, as the Western-rich atmosphere gets thicker, and the song begins to sludge along. The guitars ramp up and begin buzzing, as the violin flutters in the air, the band begins to bring down the hammer, and the hazy, sun-burnt trip comes to a sudden end.
This music is apropos for many occasions, not just snowy sojourns by some dork writer, and there is plenty of substantive moments offered by both bands. Sea Witch do things heavier and muddier, while Black Tremor feel like a chilling adventure through the desolate west. Both are excellent representatives of the healthy instrumental scene, and this split will go a long way toward sound tracking whatever trip you happen to be taking.
For more on Sea Witch, go here: https://www.facebook.com/seawitchband
For more on Black Tremor, go here: https://www.facebook.com/blacktremorband
To buy the album, go here: https://www.discogs.com/seller/sunmask/profile
For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/sunmaskrecords