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Whispering Sons – The Great Calm (PIAS)

Sonically, Belgian five-piece Whispering Sons inhabit a mutually respectful headspace between the self-titled debut by Tindersticks and The National‘s High Violet, perhaps with a bit of Roxy Music thrown in for good measure. The one overriding difference between them though, is that while you can at least glean some positivity out of the latter bands, The Great Calm is an icy cold sea of ominous grandeur. That said, it’s less terrifying than what they’ve previously put out, though if it were possible to capture intensity in a bottle, then Whispering Sons are grandmasters at doing so.

At odds with that description, there are key moments here of unexpected glorious uplift. Some of the chord progressions on ‘Walking, Flying‘ are testament to this, though there’s still an overriding aura of paranoia running through The Great Calm (perhaps ironically), whether the band intended so or not. It’s the kind of breathless uncertainty that was so brilliantly festooned upon us by Rocket Science on their 2004 single ‘Being Followed‘.

Other songs like the contemplative ‘Cold City‘ or the centrepiece ‘Still, Disappearing‘ cast a nod of approval in the direction of Japan circa ‘Ghosts‘ and its parent album ‘Tin Drum‘. There’s undoubtedly a ready embrace of all things post-punk here, however, with ‘The Talker‘ in particular conjuring vivid memories of the likes of Magazine, Wire, and above all, Television.

Balm (After Violence)‘ is almost cathartic in its melodramatic demeanour, slow-building with crashing great delayed drums giving the effect of being caught in a thunderstorm. Fenne Kuppens‘s deep, otherworldly voice makes her one of the most recognisable singers in recent memory and infuses the compositions here with just the right amount of ‘weird’ to be effective.

My only problem (and it’s really not that big a gripe) is that, as a whole, The Great Calm is just so damn intense that it can become exhausting. It’s probably better listened to with a track here and there, but then I feel like that would be doing it a disservice, as I’m pretty sure this has been put together as a proper, cohesive record.

Ah, to Hell with it – listen to it in full with the sound high, but don’t say I didn’t warn you – your face might well end up looking like Jack Nicholson‘s in the snow at the end of The Shining by the time you’ve finished. Scary, but sometimes magnificent.


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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.