Hardcore soft porn… most of y‘all will know which song I am referring to. But do you also know which 2023 album I am referring to? It’s a band that has always had an interesting approach to music, highly sophisticated and different to most others – Grails whose new record is as openly sexy as it is secretly offensive. What a “comeback”!
Anches en Maat is the new offering by Grails, one of those bands which helped build a whole genre or maybe several and who now bundle up all of these at the same time. There are Synthwave moments, it has some several Ambient and Post-Rock parts, displays a sheer subliminal love for Jazz and loads of good Doomjazz parts – but nevertheless the biggest, clearest part of all of Anches en Maat is its admiration for the music of guys like Piero Umiliani and Stelvio Cipriani, Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab, Pierre Bachelet and Hervé Roy. Who are these? Only some of the most successful and important composers of soft porn music in the 70s!
With a song like ”Sisters of Bilitis” they of course refer to the famous David Hamilton flic from the 70s and of course they work with that same layer, that same veil which seems to have covered the music from that time and for that purpose. It is lush to the extreme, it seems to have no edges and there is nothing that could be regarded as worrisome. It has a presence that is rooted to the present and is (in part) oblivious to the past and the future. Just like good sex should be, right? I should have no time frame, no connection to hours and minutes and it should make you forget that it’s 3:27 AM and you need to get up at 6:00.
this is some of the most interesting instrumental music you will hear in all of 2023, because it is playful in many ways. When for example the drums play something like a kickstart-fill and one thinks it is gonna go off now, then the band stops abruptly after four or five hits on the drum kit. There are (presumably) two reasons for that: The first one is that the band likes to play with the listeners and their expectations in the sense that they are not in it for any particular audience but rather for themselves. The second one might be a bit too much interpretation, but follow me on this one, because it definitely fits in my opinion: Soft core porn has always been a bit of a tease-and-denial on the audience, it provides a lot of heated animation, but never ultimately fulfills as it doesn’t show the act of penetration itself. It plays with our minds by showing tidbits of the sex partners, lips, breasts, nipples, eyes, etc … but never the penetration, as it leaves a lot to our very own imagination. And this record does that very same thing too. It kickstarts our imagination but then leaves a lot to our aural imagination and enables us as a whole group of people to have a very different (or maybe very similar) cinematic experience while continuing the “movie” on our own.
The songs are carried by large, vast synth-passages, the guitar are a bit more subdued and we even witness some string passages, wonderful piano spots, something that sounds like a brass part and much much more. The guys around Alex and Emil have created something really tasteful and unique, something very state of the art and yet a clear homage to some highly emotional, evocative music from decades back. The way the band got together is a clear parallel here – they have first been recording all together in one studio for the first time in more than a decade and somehow one might feel that. The energy and synergy this record has and radiates is a bit deeper and more profound than the records they have been making by sharing parts online.
In some way this approach and this way of recording might also have been the only possible way. Because if you make a record paying homage to the scores used for sex flics and record and produce it online – isn’t that simply nothing more than cybersex? And that can never be a rewarding and emotional as the real thing. Anches en Maat is the real thing – it is good in a musical and emotional sense, it is rewarding in all its splendor and grandezza, some songs sound like a miracle version of old Jazz and Swing Big Band arrangements. This is the densest and most complex music and yet so easy to understand and get lost in – breathtaking. “Hardcore soft porn” for the thinking man. And maybe some others too….