PICK OF THE WEEK: Insect Ark hit on themes of isolation, loss on dream-bending ‘Marrow Hymns’

Photo by Rennie Elliot

You don’t need words for stories and emotions to wash over you mind. Music doesn’t need a traditional narrative to provide a pathway to discovery or enlightenment or deepening the dark feelings that have rooted into your chest. Music only needs the right ambiance to be transformative or conducive to taking a journey, words to guide you be damned.

Dual-coasted Insect Ark have been wordless from the start. Originally a project helmed by New York’s guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter, the project has grown over the years in sound and scope, and the band that also includes Oregon drummer Ashley Spungin (Taurus, Purple Rhinestone Eagle), who joined in 2015, returns with a new full-length “Marrow Hymns.” This nine-track collection can transport you far away from here if you let their psychedelic-rich, space-embracing music capture your imagination. The band keyed in on isolation, loss, and displacement, as both members experienced tumultuous times leading up to this record, and the result is a stunning collection that can be as cathartic for you as it was for the duo to create. At times, I get so immersed in what’s happening on “Marrow Hymns” that I forget where I am and what I’m doing. The music often feels like it’s soundtracking a dream from my past—perhaps recent, maybe a product of long-discarded childhood slumbers—and brings that imagery ever so viscerally into the forefront.

“Thelema” opens the door, letting you begin your exploration, as they allow noise to build and swirl into “Arp 9,” where Schechter’s pedal steel laps up the waves. The moody atmosphere haunts, letting Spungin’s drumming rattle against your head and a slow, foggy ambiance spread across the room. The track picks up speed, with the tempo sliding, and the track swirling to its end. “In the Nest” unleashes steely slide guitar, with Western darkness settling over everything. The track feels like it’s drinking in the dusk colors, as is slithers into the shadows, moaning and swelling before fading. “Skin Walker” brings a more ominous presence to the record, with a burlier pace flexing and guitars churning blood. Cosmic synth brings chilling winds, while the end crushes your psyche. “Slow Ray” is the second-longest song, clocking in at 7:13, with the bass slinking, the drums punching, and the song reflecting like there are blood streaks lining the sun. Doom shadows drop, as the song slows down, and noise drone penetrates. The tempo later kicks back in, as the guitars quiver and spread over its final moments.

“Sea Harps” lets guitars flutter, as a haunting atmosphere settles in, and the pedal steel stings your senses. The music keeps making your skin burn, your head swell, and you heaving for the wall as the music retreats. “Tarnish” has sounds building and attacking, slow-simmering darkness unfolding, and the music feeling like it’s simmering in a hot night. That slips into the final moments, which feels like a spirit drifting in and out of your mind. “Windless” is the longest song, an 8:38 journey that starts with synth floating and pedal steel guitar sending chills down your spine. The easiness and torment tangle for the next few minutes, with Spungin’s drums rattling and piercing the surface. At about 6 minutes in, the tempo shifts and is pulled forward. The melodies feel like they wander over ghost towns, bringing you along with them to absorb the desolation. The final cut “Daath” is built on mostly noises and electronics, with the darkened vibe reverberating and the bulk feeling like a robotic storm. The sound assault keeps marching toward the unknown, with the track setting off for the depths of oblivion.

If you feel like you’ve entered a dark void while tackling “Marrow Hymns,” you’re not alone. The amount of time I’ve indulged in Insect Ark’s new record at night, while staring at dark blank walls or the sky are only multiplying, and each trip brings new discoveries. Words are nice, sure, but when you transcend the need to have to speak or sing, you’ve entered a ghostly existence, where Insect Ark wait to greet you.

For more on the band, go here: https://insectark.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://profoundlorerecords.merchtable.com

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/