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Hi, I'm Arvind, metal director for KWUR 90.3 FM in St. Louis, MO. Stay tuned for updates.

 

I’ve been listening mainly to new releases for the past few weeks, and I think it’s time I revisited one of the classics - in this case, Isis’ landmark 2002 opus, Oceanic. Here’s the opening track, “The Beginning and the End”. It’s my favorite one on the record, and a masterful example of how Isis became so influential. The track opens with a jazzy riff that’s driven by the open, cavernous sound of Aaron Harris’ snare. However, when the heaviness hits, it hits with a monolithic drop that plunges the listener into the darkest depths of the ocean. Despite the raging tumult, there’s an aura of clear-headedness throughout the song, reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s cosmic introspection but somehow warped, twisted into a dark, brooding mood. Almost immediately however, the clouds lift, and the music settles into a midtempo pace that ebbs and flows, in a (very un-coincidentally) wave-like manner, with occasional builds that swell and engorge with mounting tension, until the sudden calm before the storm. A vast emptiness is portrayed - especially by the guest vocals of 27’s Maria Christopher, which float in the background, a siren song that reminds us of the unfathomable mysteries of the deep. The production quality helps the atmosphere as well - there’s moments of reverb that give the guitars a drowned quality, making them sound waterlogged and submerged. The real star, however, is the previously mentioned Aaron Harris. His percussion work was always the highlight of any Isis track, but here it’s front and center - equal parts soft cymbal and menacing snare. In contrast to the guitars, Harris’ drums are pristine and crisp, serving as the beacon around which the rest of the band creates swirls and eddies. As the song near its end, two colossal snare hits signal the rest of the band to suddenly kick into gear, like a rogue wave obliterating anything and everything in its path. It’s this kind of scorched-earth finale that made Mogwai so famous, but instead of ending on walls of screaming feedback, Isis tone down the volume, and exit on two sustained and repeated notes, the light from the surface growing ever dimmer as the music continues its downward spiral into the crushing depths. Oceanic has always held great sentimental value for me, and though I’ve been listening to it on and off for nearly 10 years, I never grow tired of how perfectly it fits its motif, and how incredibly evocative it is. It’s truly a recording that you can lose yourself in. While I’ve only linked to the first track, the entire record is flawless from start to finish. I hope anyone reading this decides to take the plunge and give it a listen. There’s plenty of room down here.

(Source: youtube.com)