Wolves in the Throne Room

Celestite

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According to Wolves in the Throne Room's Aaron & Nathan Weaver, Celestite is a companion to 2011's Celestial Lineage. They claim it delves deep inside the bevy of buried sounds in the latter's mix and repurposes them. But this isn't like anything they've released before. There are no bass or drums here. Guitars are present, but have been overshadowed by a staggering variety of analog synths, as well as brass and winds. With the help of producer/engineer Randall Dunn, this music walks some strange line between Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother and Meddle, Lustmord's darker ambient records, and Sunn 0)))'s more detailed, latter-day drone experiments, with other stuff woven in. The two short instrumental cuts on CL -- "Permanent Changes in Consciousness" and "Rainbow Illness," provide a referent for what's found here, but as evidenced by the brooding drift in the 11-plus-minute opener "Turning Ever Towards the Sun," this music moves further afield. It opens outward with a developing majestic intensity adorned by layered synths -- some posing as organs -- then burrows toward a cavernous, darkened abyss with pulse drones, French horns, and trombones. Though "Initiation at Neudeg Alm" employs a near-theatrical, repetitive keyboard pattern in its opening that resembles something from early Alan Parsons, it's answered by overdriven, low-tuned guitars that provide a churning menace for balance to its spaciousness. "Bridge of Leaves" is the most "sedate" cut here, its wandering synths, textured atmospherics, and Veronica Dye's ethereal flute, become a long interlude that serves as a respite. It gives way to darkly ponderous percussive samples that introduce "Celestite Mirror." This track most closely illustrates the multi-dimensional mix at work here. It's comprised of several sections. Almost regal organ sounds, Mara Winter's lithe flute, blipping keyboard sounds -- à la Tangerine Dream's Atem and Edgar Froese's Aqua -- all serve to create lines that intersect and spiral off one another in different directions only to return and begin again in a different configuration. Add a detuned-guitar power chord with droning harmonic brass, and these strummed textural dynamics create tension and drama before offering a somewhat gentler release. Closer "Sleeping Golden Storm" commences with keyboard drones and extended, distorted high notes from the guitars that swell gradually. Massive organ-like chords -- think Olivier Messiaen -- come straight through the mix's body, and are joined by a three-note synth pattern. French horn and trombone bubble up almost imperceptibly before claiming enough territory to rival the organ's superiority. Chords erect a tonal and harmonic architecture as drones feed off of and build onto them. As these they are peeled off one by one and become a single whispered layer, one realizes just how much was built inside these drones. Celestite may not appeal to black metal fundamentalists (it's not "metal" at all), but Wolves in the Throne Room was never about that anyway. This album presents a more pronounced sense of drama from the progressive aspect of analog electronic exploration, and delivers compelling yet open-ended compositions. To that end, it is nearly sublime.

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