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Steve Raegele: Last Century

Matt Marshall By

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"Mostly, this is the sound of half-awake dreams, phantasmic moments of glowing red dawn," guitarist Steve Raegele writes in the liner notes to Last Century. "I think of these songs as having been created by reaching out from a moving train to grab onto shapes that would be lost in the blur."

As those lines suggest, there's little melody here, just snatches of ringing guitar that rise out of primordial, electronic ooze. Heavy on atmospherics and space, the music drifts over a haunting, troubling landscape, allowing Raegele's sharp metallic lines to startle and cut as they're unleashed from the shadows. Likewise, drummer Thom Gossage's flurries knock with added force, owing to the dense, nightmarish buzzing from which they erupt.

Raegele opens the album with the five-minute title-track drone, grafted here and there by bright shots off the triangle. It cleans the slate, perhaps making way for music of the new century. Yet (in the composition titles, at least) Raegele is prone to look back over the previous 100 years—often to its pop culture—instead of ahead, splicing those gazes with short, crunching odes to mythological beings. But what separates or joins these time lapses is never made clear, and, no doubt, intentionally so. Ultimately, it's time and space that are on trial here: "Find in [this music] gestures big and small ... shapes in the clouds ... the Virgin Mary in your morning toast ... patterns and codes to be perceived and broken, in that order," Raegele writes.

So the guitarist is open to mixing "a deep seated 90s RnB track" with "faux-Debussy impressionism" on "Janet Jackson" and to allowing four barely distinguishable, humming chords to guide "Pareidolia," opening from bassist Miles Perkin's dark, echoing tones into a jungle of guitar and drum clatter and out finally on the not-altogether-calming lullaby struck from a piece of metal in Gossage's arsenal.

Still, whether Raegele's wonderfully textured and wonderfully disturbing music is meant to cap the turbulent 20th century or reveal a century yet to come—in other words, the last century—remains a mystery. And the music is better for it.

Track Listing: Last Century; Δ (Sisyphus); Janet Jackson; Stop Short; Δ (Daedalus); The Opposite; Δ (Hercules); Verdun; Fight Club the Rabbit; Pareidolia; Δ (Bacchus).

Personnel: Steve Raegele: electric guitar; Miles Perkin: acoustic bass; Thom Gossage: drums, kalimba.

Title: Last Century | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Songlines Recordings

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