Witnesses - IV

26 Mar 2022 - Gene

Cinematic, Orchestral, Ambient | Self-Released | Release date: 05 Feb 2021

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Witnesses continues to explore the emotional range of cinematic Post Rock with a particularly dialed-in chapter, which harnesses the composer’s previous outings, while taking new inspiration from the art of the film score to evoke a cinema-like experience worthy of the Silver Screen.

When I took a look at the dark, alt-rock-leaning The Collapse at the end of last year, I did not expect to rewind to the beginning of the year to their previous album, IV, but here we are with the upcoming release of the vinyl pressing. And it sounds like I’ll be putting my order in, as this release is ripe for vinyl!

As it happens, in February of that year, Witnesses took a step back from the Rock side almost entirely in the form of IV. Here we find an engaging range of soundscapes that conjure specters of hearts beating in subtle terror, foreboding Nordic landscapes (as the artwork suggests), dances shrouded in dusk like some forbidden rites, and more. Fittingly, even the silence speaks volumes. The silence accentuates the tension of the rising and falling strings, of piercing keys, ringing bells, the sparse but moving vocal spots: by turn clear and poignant, by turn twisted in on itself, sounding tortured, as if replayed backwards.

This cinema of the eye, now in wax will carry a visual art accompaniment, to complete the multisensory experience, is played out in twenty succinct movements. Every movement cross-connects, each a progression as well as a singular vignette in that pastiche-fashion of a classical theater or OST piece. With Dead Can Dance and classical composer, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s work the major touchstones at play for sole writer Greg Schwan on this release, the technical intent is clear even as the musical journey hinted at therein remains obscure.

Now, while ambient music I can appreciate, my preference is always ambience juxtaposed with something other. And this album delivers that with a keen ear for emotional dynamics and an immense measure of reserve that really captures my imagination and conjures images I cannot put to words.

This is the antithesis of gapless playback the audiophile craves meanwhile it is everything we lust for in terms of sound immersion. From the luscious passages of languishing chords to the dense Sax to the silent moments of transition when can be savored the simple pleasure of a needle’s soft hiss as it glides over a groove.

Diving a little deeper on the tracklist, “The Ghost Is In The Whiteout” introduces that sultry sax somehow abstraction resolves into something even more foreboding and mysterious. The duo of ”ᚹ” and ”ᚾ” stands out thanks to that expert mood-building – in particular the dense, sauntering guitar line closing out ”ᚾ”. ”Farewell” distinguishes itself, as well, sounding something like a Gorillaz piece. All of these pieces highlight the power of variety, sparsity, composition and mood-building.

Witnesses kills it, as ever, with this very cool balance of classical movements, disturbingly dissonant complications, psych-outs coinciding, crashing as waves upon the psyche. More than a few times did IV give me that trippy Blue Velvet moment. The vinyl is out 18, March and everyone with a deck should have a copy!