December 07, 2005

Saxon Shore "The Exquisite Death of..."

Saxon Shore’s latest album, The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore, is nothing short of a blissful listening experience. That the album almost did not come into existence makes its existence even more blessed. Last year, two of the band’s founding members left, and Matt Doty was forced to put together an entirely new band. This overhaul has proven a good thing, as the new incarnation of Saxon Shore takes his music to new heights. They then enlisted magical studio wizard Dave Friddman to produce the record. The result? A drop-dead gorgeous record that burns with gentle intensity and unhurried passion.

The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore's sound travels from quiet to loud to quiet again, but in so doing, they never tread into bombastic or lightweight territory. From the gentle lullaby tones of "This Shameless Moment" and "TheShaping of a Helpless Joy" to the epic, cinematic rock of "Isolated By the Secrets of Your Fellow Men" and "How We Conquered the Western World on Horseback," Saxon Shore explores all sorts of delicate, gentle ambient-rock sounds, treading the same ground as--but never imitating--Sigur Ros, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Mogwai, and Explosions in the Sky. Though the band's tendency to start soft, grow loud and then grow soft again might not impress some, overall, the music is pretty enough and colorful enough to escape any easy dismissal as "generic-sounding." Indeed, it's understandable how a few of the songs could be labeled as generic, if you listened to them outside of the rest of the record. But listening to the album in individual parts seems to defeat the point; listening to it as if it were one long, continuous symphony makes the listening experience much more rewarding.

Very rarely is music this easy on the ears, but The Exquisite Death of Saxon Shore is a wonderfully relaxing record. Word has it that the band is working on a soundtrack score, and it's easy to understand why; their music and their tone is cinematic, and it will be interesting to see how their soundtrack-style music fits in with a visual element.

--Joseph Kyle

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