To say that I'm a huge fan of Kranky Records is probably an understatement. I've used "kranky" as a password on more than one occasion on computer-related things (a nerdy form of devotion, I'll admit), and I probably own between 60-75 percent of their entire catalogue of releases. That said, Growing is easily one of the more difficult releases that I've heard from the Kranky label, and it's one of those rare releases that has almost as many moments of near quiet as it does sound.
Because of their somewhat unconventional sound, Growing is a group that's pretty hard to sandwich into one genre. Sometimes it's ambient, yet at others is hauntingly heavy. At some points it's sheer drone, and at others it threatens to turn to metal. The opening track of "A Painting" sums up many of the things that the group is about, and at 17 minutes is also a good idea of the time frame that they work within (there are six tracks on the disc that total well over an hour in length). The track opens with some dizzying delayed guitar strums that sound like the equivalent of liquid before a slow hit on a cymbal turns into another shimmering mass that eventually melds with the guitar tones before they dissolve into nothing. That section takes up the first third of the track, and from there it's onto low-end tone shift drones that comprise the rest of the track. It's more stripped than Stars Of The Lid, and it's almost maddening.
"Life In D" opens with more subtle tonal shifts before a heavily distorted guitar creeps into the mix and slowly overtakes it, culminating in a percussive strike that leads to absolute silence. Another strike hits 20 seconds later slowly falling to silence again, and this same technique repeats for one minute of delicious tension before another grimey guitar enters the fray and closes out the track with a weird heavily-narcotic guitar solo before the very next track again features nothing but slowly-morphing reverbed guitar interplay that sounds like a death metal riff all shot up with heroin.
After listening to The Sky's Run Into The Sea, I've come to the conclusion that much of the release (if not all) is simply improvised. There are moments where the group absolutely nails things, like the stunning strike/silence of "Life In D" and the weary, dreary guitar moments of "Cutting, Opening, Swimming." Unfortunately, there is also a lot of really, really unfocused moments where it feels like either they had no idea where they wanted to go next, or simply let the tape roll too long. With guitars, bass, electronics, and the occasional percussion at their controls, it's actually more understated than I thought it would be, but sometimes that restraint is more frustrating than anything. On one hand, it's a little too noisy for those who like pure drone excursions, and it's probably a little too droney for those hoping for a little more tension and release. The moments where the group uses actual percussion are few and far between, but it always adds some much-needed punctuation to their heavy-drone style music. As a debut, it's understandable to be a little all over the place, but here's hoping they coalesce a little more in the future.