On their last album Dutch Harbor Where The Sea Breaks Its Back, the Boxhead Ensemble put together a long album of droning songs that was nearly the perfect soundtrack to the film that it was scoring (about a bleak fishing town in coastal Alaska). A sort of rotating ensemble of mainly Chicago area musicians (although others were included as well), that last project featured everyone from Ken Vandermark to Douglas McCombs and Will Oldham. Although the lineup is much different this time around, the project still features big names, and although the overall mood is quite a bit different, the group have put together an even stronger release.
Although it doesn't really state on which tracks and to what extent everyone contributes (which is something I must say that I'm curious about), there are again a core of players back (led by Michael Krassner) along other players like Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and Jim White and Mick Turner of Dirty Three. Comprised of 9 tracks, the album consists of 4 tracks that run for much longer expanses (from 9 minutes to 18) while the remaining tracks clock in at under 4 minutes each. Strangely, though, it's the longer tracks that actually feel more tight, as if the short tracks provide lingering interludes while the longer tracks really shine.
The track opens with a very minimal, short track entitled "Still," comprised of only one lonely bowed violin, some background rustling noises and a couple touches of percussion. The album really starts in nicely on the following track, though. "From This Point Onward" actually feels strangely like a track by the aforementioned Dirty Three with sleepy, fluttering percussion, some deft guitar work, and a soft, snaking violin. The group follows that track up with an atmospheric guitar instrumental called "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" that recalls the quieter moments of Godspeed You Black Emperor with its haunting beauty and desolate feel.
The album centerpiece is the almost 20-minute album titled track "Two Brothers." The backbone of the track is again a mournful violin part, and other instruments linger in and out of the mix, sometimes leaving it solo, while at other times making you wonder whether the group will build to a furious climax (although they never quite do). Because the group tends to let things stray out instead of working into a groove, many will find this release almost maddening in that it never really builds to peaks, except for ever so subtlely. Most of the time, percussion is completely absent on the release, and even when it does make an appearence, it's nothing that propels things forwards. The group has again managed to weave some amazing sounds, though, and create an atmosphere that isn't quite as cold sounding as their last effort. Hopefully the group finds time to reconvene in the future.