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Crustcake Presents: M.G.R. - Wavering on the Cresting Heft

Posted on December 5, 2007

Below is the inagural edition of Crustcake Presents. Every week, renowned music blogger Crustcake will present to you an album that will sync with your third eye and will aid your herbal adventures through the metropolitan terrains of life. Make sure to visit Crustcake's blog for more of his musings.

mgrcoverWhat began merely as a way for ISIS axe-man Mike Gallagher "to familiarize [himself] with some new recording equipment that [he] had just purchased" has evolved into Mustard Gas and Roses, a full-fledged musical endeavor. Wavering on the Cresting Heft, MGR's second proper full-length offering, is an instrumental journey into a dark and dismal world.

Mustard Gas and Roses takes its name from a line in the late, great Kurt Vonnegut's classic novel Slaughterhouse Five. Vonnegut, an allied soldier during World War II, was captured by German soldiers and imprisoned in Dresden, a city in eastern Germany and the site of one of World War II's greatest atrocities: on February 13, 1945, England's Royal Air Force laid waste to the city, which contained more than a million civilians, refugees, wounded soldiers, and POWs (including Vonnegut) but alas no viable military targets.

Tens of thousands of lives were lost– most of them civilians– but Vonnegut was among the survivors, lucky for him and certainly lucky for us.

Wavering on the Cresting Heft would have been a fitting soundtrack to the terror rained down upon the people of Dresden that night in the form of 650,000 phosphorous bombs, or perhaps more relevantly, the soundtrack to a yet-to-be-realized feature film on the subject. The imagined pairing of Mike Gallagher's dark, forlorn doom-drone with a black-and-white cinescape depicting the post-apocalyptic aftermath of the destruction at Dresden is not entirely unlike the pairing of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "East Hastings" with protagonist Jim's lonely, desolate walk through London after awaking from a coma in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later.

On Wavering, many of Gallagher's influences come through quite clearly– album opener "Allusions" alludes to (sorry) Red Sparowes' "Mechanical Sounds…" though the former is perhaps a bit darker. Red Sparowes' influence is also apparent in "It Darkens His Door," which is not exactly surprising– Red Sparowes and ISIS have shared at least two members– but here Gallagher lays his post-rock over a bed of drone à la Earth or Sunn O))). "Ruminations of Before" is a bit more akin to the aforementioned Godspeed You! Black Emperor and "Equilibrium," the brightest– but not bright by any means– song of the collection, serves as a brief glimmer of bittersweet hope in the midst of otherwise-constant gloom.

According to the press release, Wavering "occupies the nebulous purview between active and passive listening," and this analysis is dead-on accurate. For better or worse, Wavering can quickly get lost in the background and, absent the listener's undivided attention inevitably becomes white– or should we say black– noise. Luckily, or perhaps purposefully, the listener is jolted back to consciousness by the unsettling guitar phasing of album closer "And It Falls, By The Gallons."

Ultimately, when all is said and done, Wavering simply drifts off into the aether and is all-but lost from memory. Perhaps this isn't such a bad thing though. Unlike a pop album, where the songs are designed to cement themselves firmly in your consciousness for hours or even days to come, Wavering simply exists, "[shifting]," to quote the press release once again, "in and out of focus, vanishing and reappearing before dissolving completely."

[ M.G.R. Myspace ]

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