The Battle of Sealand

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Chicago quartet Airiel has released a series of EPs, but this is the band's first album, and it is an ambitious one, running over 63 minutes (or over 61, if you subtract the two minutes of silence that separate the end of the final track, "The Big Mash-Up," from an instrumental coda that constitutes a hidden track). It isn't only the length of the CD that's ambitious, it's the music. On each song, Airiel fills the speakers with echoing, shimmering sound, so much so that it is the sheer sound that dominates the experience of listening to the album. The CD booklet contains a lyric sheet detailing the words of group members Jeremy Wrenn and Cory Osborne; without it, the listener wouldn't have a clue what they're singing, since the vocals are buried so far down in the mix that they can barely be perceived and come off as just another sound within the cyclonic musical effects. On their own, they are sometimes despairing, sometimes descriptive, and, in "Stay," romantic to the point of amounting to a marriage proposal. But there's no way to tell that by merely listening to the album. Rather, the musical intention clearly is to create a sense of aural majesty that sometimes devolves down to industrial noise. In such a maelstrom, individual details don't count for much.

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