Ritual Howls

Turkish Leather

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Even though Ritual Howls' self-titled debut was just over 20 minutes long, it's notable just how much more fleshed-out and fully realized the trio's second album Turkish Leather is. Working with producer Chris Koltay, the band makes a big step forward from the lo- to mid-fi sonics of Ritual Howls and the Nostilevo cassettes, delivering something more polished and versatile without sacrificing any mood or menace. While the noise that blanketed the band's earlier music often added to the impression that it was recorded in a moldering crypt, occasionally it obscured the finer points of Ritual Howls' songs too much. This isn't the case on Turkish Leather, which focuses on the spooky yet sultry sound of its title track. Originally appearing in a much sparer version on Ritual Howls, here it's embellished with psychedelic drones and intricate percussion that reflect the band's growth over two years. These details make the most of Koltay's production, which unearths cavernous spaces between Paul Bancell's baritone -- which ranks among the doomiest of the post-punk and goth-inspired bands of the 2010s -- and the rest of Ritual Howls' music. There's a newfound depth to the layers of fuzz bass, ominous riffs, and mechanical beats on "The Taste of You," while the friction between "My Friends"' claustrophobic synths and rustling guitars throws sparks. As on their earlier work, Turkish Leather shows the band can blend many different kinds of dark sounds into something unique. The group's influences feel more artfully mixed than ever, especially on "Zemmoa," where industrial beats and snippets of dialogue add to the melody's mystique. Similarly, Bancell's vocals and words have more range, from his oddly compassionate tone on "Helm" to the refreshing wit of lyrics like "Take Me Up"'s "You bring the flowers/I'll bring the hearse." The kind of album listeners can wrap themselves in like a cloak, Turkish Leather expands on Ritual Howls' dark allure and makes a great introduction for newcomers to the fold.

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