Mustard Gas & Roses is the side project of Mike Gallagher, who is probably better known for his work with Isis, those fine purveyors of dirge. Despite the somewhat harsh title (a reference to a line from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five), MGR is about as far away from Gallagher's other band as one could possibly be. Instead, Nova Lux is an exploration of very subtle changes in quiet, but darkly ominous sound.
In fact, it's one of those albums that you can't really put on unless you can devote your full attention to it. The first time I put the release on, it was on my little kitchen radio when I cooking dinner. About 10 minutes into things, I forgot that it was even playing, and was only reminded about 20 minutes later when it got a smidge louder during the closing minutes of the fourth track.
For reference points, imagine the quiet parts of Explosions In The Sky played even quieter over multiple layers of overlapping drones and you're getting somewhere close. Opening track "I" swirls some soft hums around for half the running length before some contemplative guitar melodies wind around one another and into the following track. "II" takes on a slightly more sinister tone, but the ingredients are largely the same, with rumbling murmurs heaving away under guitars that move from languid to urgent but never really gain much in the way of intensity.
"IV" is the aforementioned track that woke me out of my focused kitchen work, and it's mainly because the guitars get just a slight edge to them while programmed beats climb out of the murky darkness for a moment. Closing track "V" again brings some subtle beats into the mix, but by then the five song, forty-five minute album has barely registered. An extremely deliberate album, Nova Lux unfortunately just doesn't offer up a whole lot that hasn't been done before elsewhere (although I suppose it does it more quietly). If you're an Isis fan looking for an extreme comedown, or a hardcore Neurot label fan, this one might appeal, but others will probably wish there was a bit more to it.