Read and Listen: Into Orbit & Agents of Dreamland

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Listen with your eyes and read with your ears. Or if you want to actually enjoy both of these delights, maybe ignore that advice.

They sound like stories you’ve heard before. At least they start that way. The Russian Circles brand of post-rock and the cliché scene in a scummy diner as part of a noir story. A scratchy-but-melodic guitar tone over a pulsating rhythm. One agent turns over his evidence while the other holds hers back a little longer. The mood-setting riff takes an occasional backseat to something more progressive. She wants to make sure the information trade is fair; she knows it isn’t, but what other option is there?

And while these concepts are familiar, they don’t necessarily imply what is to come. Any range of textures can be applied to a stock, and both Unearthing and Agents of Dreamland go for something … alien. A metallic/organic tone permeates Into Orbit’s sound, taking it beyond the often-used space theme and directly onto another planet. Terra firma, but not ours. Space plays a small part in Caitlin R. Kiernan’s master plan as well, but only as a means to begin the merging of worlds. A century of hints, as seen by Immacolata and later understood by the Signalman, are just foreshadowing for the spores to come. In the realm of secret bureaucracies, the stakes are the existence of humanity and the recognition is nil. Unearthing, after you read one brief but haunting passage in the middle, could be a perfect name for both works.

Ritual is the key to all of this. A complete mastering of tone and texture. Longer songs like “Stone Circles” and “Equilibrium” allow for moments of pure reflection, a place for dark thoughts before getting back to the riff-heavy work that must be done. It’s the transition that we look forward to. Chloe gets caught up in this cult of transition. By letting hard drugs wear down her sense of self, it’s easy to see how the captivating nonsense spewed by Drew Standish (or is it nonsense?) would give life a purpose again. Basking in the sun, listening for signal in the static, and nurturing your vessel are the tenants in the black book that no one (but Drew) is allowed to read.

This New Zealand-based duo is just as secretive about their purpose (with no voice provided), but you don’t have to listen for long to know that it is all signal.The structures are fluid; no section runs too long, but are long enough to get you hooked on the groove. The star winds are audible in the recording. The Signalman cares not about the prophecies. Maybe once, in his early years of his thankless job, he took interest in what he thought was static, but those days are long gone. These days, J&B Whisky and retirement seem to be his focus, at least until he witnesses an unthinkable horror. His mistake is believing that just because there is unending static in this shitty world, there is no signal at all.

Both novella (~120 pages) and LP (~41 minutes) are shorter than they need to be, in that they lay the groundwork for an epic story to be told, but don’t even come close to wearing out their welcome. However, their brevity seems to be core to their intrigue. The plot, as interesting as it may be, is secondary to the fantastic prose that uniquely combines noir and sci-fi. Into Orbit, I was happy to hear, has a grasp on a personal voice in the muddy genre of instrumental post-rock, and I hope to see them jump out from the pack.

Pick up Into Orbit’s Unearthing over at the Art As Catharsis bandcamp page, and Agents of Dreamland over at Amazon.

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  • GL

    InstrumentalMetal>>>>>

    Neat article, bud!

    • Óðinn

      InstruMetal.

  • Wet W’s Whistle

    NEAT! I enjoyed reading this and would like to at least check out the novella.

    • Joaquin Stick

      Speaking of books, I’m small chunk of the way into The Terror and god damn, I just want to read about arctic exploration forever now.

      • Wet W’s Whistle

        YES. Man, all I wanted after reading that was to find more books about evil critters lurking in the ice and snow.

        That at least part of it is real is wild.

      • GL

        Is it cold, bleak, and most of all – fleek?

      • tigeraid

        Fellow Dan Simmons warriors! The Terror got me on an Age of Exploration plunge that I still haven’t come up from years later. I have stacks of arctic exploration books to sift through now.

        • Joaquin Stick

          Nice! Let me know if you have any recommendations. Thinking about reading an actual historical account or something after this. Such a sweet topic.

          • Wet W’s Whistle

            I want to read that Northern Waters one you mentioned (or whatever it is).

          • tigeraid

            Well first I would definitely suggest more from Simmons in the same vein–The Abominable is great, leaning toward the “Exploring Mt Everest golden age” side of things.

            Otherwise….

            Bruce Henderson – Fatal North
            In The Land of White Death – Valerian Albanov
            The Ice Master – Jennifer Niven
            In the Kingdom of Ice – Hampton Sides
            Endurance – Alfred Lansing
            Fatal Passage – Ken McCoogan
            Lady Franklin’s Revenge – Ken McCoogan
            Resolute – Martin W. Sandler

  • Señor Jefe El Rossover

    I feel the urge to describe this as “neat” so that is the word I shall use.

    This is a novel idea for an album!

    • Joaquin Stick

      I like my whiskey like I like my books. Neat.

      • Wet W’s Whistle
        • Señor Jefe El Rossover

          Gotdang!

          • GL

            RIP POOR LADY
            RIP(PED) POOR ANDERPANTS

        • GL

          /sheded

          • Howard Dean

            Not dead, but her labia and/or perineum are probably a little sore. #thatswhatshesaid

        • Howard Dean

          I feel like you could probably buy this video in a vending machine in Japan.

          • Wet W’s Whistle

            My lawyer has suggested I not respond to this comment.

        • Óðinn
      • Señor Jefe El Rossover

        I like my whisky without the e.

        • Joaquin Stick

          I can take it or leave it. Been digging into bourbon more recently.

          • Señor Jefe El Rossover

            Just being snarky, I like me the bourbon as well.

          • Howard Dean

            Craft bourbon and rye are the new double IPA. T-minus 18 months before craft distilling groups begin popping up in every small city.

          • Joaquin Stick

            I’d believe it. I’m tired of being nearly-duped into buying the same shit with a different label though, so I would welcome at least a tiny bubble in a small but legit market.

          • Howard Dean

            There are already a couple of legit small batch bourbon and rye distillers out there. WhistlePig is pretty awesome stuff, though you pay for it.

  • tigeraid

    Maaaaaaan. I used to do this a lot when I was younger, but I find I need silence these days to read.

    But I don’t try often with instrumentals. Maybe I should.

    Agents of Dreamland is on my giant reading list, as well.

    • Joaquin Stick

      Oh you mean read while listening? Oh, no, that sounds miserable. Both are good, but not at the same time.

      • drug_genosh

        I disagree: while I was reading Dune I also happened to be listening to a lot of Death’s Symbolic and now they have forever merged into my memory in the best way possible. I do find that its difficult to concentrate for the first few pages but once the story takes you you’re all set. Just make sure you like the band/book otherwise the stank might forever be associated with the other.

        • Joaquin Stick

          Interesting. I’ve never tried but I’m not sure my ability to multitask would be up to it. I think it would need to be instrumental for me, if I tried at all.

          • drug_genosh

            hey, its worth a shot! Once you get past the multitasking aspect, you’re reading to a soundtrack and depending on how well both mediums compliment each other, it can really add to the experience.

  • Waynecro

    Awesome work, JS!

  • Hans Copronym

    I understood about a fifth of this, which made it all the more intriguing.

    • Joaquin Stick

      Objective achieved!

  • Old Man Doom

    I’ve heard if this book before. Sounds like good shit, and I’ll definitely check it out now that it’s got a toilet recommendation.

    I’ll chime in too and say the the pairing of a reading with an LP is a great idea.

  • KJM, Doom Scientist
  • KJM, Doom Scientist

    Not amazing but decent, with yet another “Witch Acid Blood Wizard” style name.
    https://dopelord.bandcamp.com/album/children-of-the-haze