Some albums are positively disturbing. Perhaps it is the thematic content, perhaps it is the music itself. Or, in the case of 'El Cielo' by Dredg, some albums are disturbing because they are just too impossibly good. What may be even more disturbing is that this is only the band's second full-length album. I have my brother to thank for introducing me to Dredg. I had never heard of him until we were discussing some bands we really loved that the other may have not heard of. In the mood for something new to listen to, I saw their first album, 'Leitmotif' in the store and picked it up. I was instantly hooked. Then I picked up 'El Cielo'.
Taking after it's name, the Spanish word for 'the sky', this album exudes atmosphere from the first second to the last. Layers of ambient sounds both complement and collide with one another. Songs carefully flow into each other, often blurring to a degree where one ends and the next begins, though not nearly to the extent as on 'Leitmotif'. A concept album of sorts, the album's liner notes are filled with letters describing sleep-paralysis, a condition in which people awaken to find they cannot move, often accompanied with various and sundry hallucinations. The songs loosely address this subject as well as they meander from one to the next. And while I admit this is a very odd concept to base an album on, the songs pull it off, creating a mix of sleepy and urgent all at the same time.
Musically, Dredg has given up some of their edge found on 'Leitmotif'. However, on this album it simply works. Creating a smooth, atmospheric, almost floating feeling, the instruments all combine to carry the listener away. Balancing acoustic and electric guitars, with the occasional cello and Middle Eastern chanting, Dredg create an amazingly diverse and beautiful tapestry. The playing is nearly flawless. Not over bearing in a technical sense, yet certainly complex and fascinating to listen to, each member of the band carries their weight, without one ever becoming over the top. And Gavin's voice is best described as simply a pleasure to listen to.
Tracks to catch: The entire album really needs to be listened to in order to truly appreciate it. Yet there are some stand out tracks. "Convalescent" is both poppy, catchy yet cynical all at the same time. "Scissor Lock" is so beautiful it almost brings a tear to my eye. "Eighteen People Living in Harmony" is a brilliant song that combines just about everything that is good about Dredg into one four and a half minute work. Finally, the album climaxes with "The Canyon Behind Her", quite possibly the greatest song I have ever heard. Yes, it is simply that good.