Musical moments can be many things; they can be moving or subtle, large and bombastic beyond proportion or slight tingles down your spine,a mere suggestion of a note or musical phrase. Both kinds can make your jaw drop; sometimes, a hint of something in the right place has as much strength as a cannonade of chords or effects. The rarest kind of band is the kind that can take advantage of both approaches, both serving up expansive canvases of sweeping passages and elegant, nuanced additions to existing melodies that take your breath away. With Dénouement, Respire have ascended to this sought after peak of expression, creating an album that reaches into your heart and squeezes it in both the macro and micro levels.
“Bound”, the track which opens the album, already contains all the examples we could ask for. It’s first half is already filled with great music, a post-rock opening (in the vein of sleepmakeswaves perhaps) soon giving way to blackgaze territory; the guitar notes are smeared all over the mix, with a second track slicing through it with that delay effect for which both post-rock and shoegaze are famous for. The drums are fast, hovering on the edges of blastbeats as they add to the busy and overwhelming sensation of the track. The vocals move in multiple tracks, scraping the bottom of high registers while also accompanied by thicker sounds. When the post-rock notes return, we get one of those big musical moments; the way the guitars erupt with the by-now familiar notes, sailing over the rest of the instrumentation while the vocals escalate their performance is simply beautiful.
As this mini-crescendo comes to its end though, we get one of those smaller moments. Suddenly, the music falls away and the guitars effortlessly strum a few lines alongside a horn, announcing in a fragile voice the second part of the track. Strings are now present but timid, hovering around that same guitar while percussive elements eke out a space for themselves alongside these notes, belying the eventual return of cymbals and punctuated drums. At the middle of this segment, Respire start to collect all of these “small” elements and craft them into a crescendo of themselves, evoking comparisons like Years of Rice & Salt or yndi halda. Here, the vibrant, tiny touches rule the day, coalescing into the bigger picture only slowly, beauty resting not in a breadth of expression but in a harmony of the gentle, in a bringing together of the moving, the hum at the edges of your hearing.
Naturally, things soon come to a head and the track ends on an explosive outro that sets our heart to song. The rest of the album moves between these two different approaches with equal skill; on the following “Haunt” for example, the crescendo at the end of the track is all fury and fire but informed by the quieter passages which opened the track. On the wonderful “Catacombs”, nearer the end of the album, a ponder-some bass lends presence to the desolate lyrics, coming together in an outro that takes its lurching steps and feedback laden guitars right from the ideas first painted by that very same bass. All across the album, small moments conspire to pierce you deeply, subtly, while large expressions of musical intensity sweep in to pick up the pieces and put them together in new ways.
All of this makes Dénouement quite an emotionally taxing journey; you need to be in a certain mood to listen to it, like much of blackgaze or post black metal. But when it hits you right, when this juggling act of demure sounds and bullish crescendos is what you’re thirsty for, there is a deep well to be drunk from within the album. Fans of the genre, and you can take your pick from the genres mentioned above because they are all performed to an equal and excellent degree here, will find much to go back to on this album. Respire have managed that most elusive of musical tasks, a gentle touch which still manages to grasp us firmly by our coattails and hoist us up.
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Dénouement was released on May 1st of this year. You can grab it via the Bandcamp link above.