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Justin Almquist: The Speed of Dark

Geno Thackara By

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How fast does dark actually go anyway? It's light that makes the most common and obvious metaphors for speed, after all. Then again, as the great Terry Pratchett wrote: "no matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first and is waiting for it." Shadows simply grow in a different way entirely—this movement is more the subtle kind that creeps through the cracks, no matter what you do, with the unhurried weight of inevitability behind it.

This is the speed of The Speed of Dark. If we had to place this recording somewhere on the genre map, the neighborhood of heavy experimental post-rock would be a good place to start. For the most part the pace oozes like sticky syrup. Guitar chords can steadily chug along or simply ring through the atmosphere, while light programmed beats or synth tones shade in the space. If there's any lead instrument, it's most often a vaguely unsettling electric bass, which often fills that role with plodding thuds like the footsteps of impending doom.

And yet there's room for a nicely quirky range of non-doomy sounds running through it as well. The juiced guitars wander from ambient haze to the depths of drone metal. "El Mensajero" is airily carried by acoustic strums and the plucking of nylon strings; the semi-catchy "Untitled (Song for Erik)" briefly bursts into clean-toned jazzy chords under a melodic fuzz solo, while the title track's spooky synth soon gets broken up with some of the album's busiest electro-beats. Through it all the uneasy atmospheric murk never totally goes away, which complements the instrumental leads in some spots and makes an ear-catchingly weird clash of tones in others.

Justin Almquist's aural construction is a dense layered collage that's often unnerving and yet unexplainably compelling. Chord progressions tend to make odd jumps sideways, loud and quiet can switch places on a dime, and the compositional motifs emerge and drop off the map in unpredictable spots. The Speed of Dark sinks in like its namesake rather than grabbing attention or sticking in the mind. The pieces evolved over time gradually with patience, and the listener should be willing to approach it the same way to begin unraveling its depths—preferably after putting away the razor blades, juuuuust to be safe.

Track Listing: Out Where; IIWII; Circumstellar; Never Reaching the End; Untitled (Song for Erik); The Speed of Dark; EEl Mensajero (Quartet); Shaded Red; Untergang; Be True.

Personnel: Justin Almquist: electric basses, guitars, double bass, piano, keyboards, drums, editing, mixing, mastering.

Title: The Speed of Dark | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

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