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Album Review
In The Sodium Light

In The Sodium Light
by The Renderers

Ba Da Bing

Review Date
13th April 2016
Reviewed by
Chris Familton

Ex-pat duo The Renderers return with their ninth album in a career now spanning 27 years. The hallmark of their musical relationship is one built on consistency of mood, inventive guitar playing (both gently hypnotic and wildly coruscating) and a heavy emphasis on atmospheric, droning gothic folk and country. In The Sodium Light is of course no different, continuing to mine a rich vein of music similar to acts such as Dirty Three, Mazzy Star, Tindersticks and Cowboy Junkies.

Brian and Maryrose Crook hit some noisier territory on their last album A Rocket Into Nothing and in comparison this one feels like an opening of doors onto wide-open desert plains, presumably a result of their relocation to Joshua Tree in California. There’s a languid heat and a starlit spookiness that induces both unease and a sense of calm across these nine tracks. ‘Sea Worthy’ employs a Cale/Velvet Underground-esque drone of bowed strings to create a swirling drone, while ‘The Remembering Room’ strips back the frisson and grind with thick guitar chords that hang heavy in the air over looped creaking guitar abstractions. ‘Mr Pulse’ finds a balance between those two forms and adds stately piano and funereal drumming to ratchet up the gloomy, narcotic vibe.

Vocally the duo use similar techniques of slow intonation, stretched vowels and whispered snarls. On ‘Strange Love’ Brian sings of broken ghosts, strip malls and lonely roads as he builds up a desolate scene of societal decay over six queasy and shimmering minutes of Dead Man (Neil Young) styled guitar work. On ‘Black Saturn’ he ups the malevolent tone like Suicide on heavy downers. The sonic density and murkiness maintain tension beautifully, teasing a collapse into a sea of static but always pulling back from the edge. In contrast, the closing ‘You Raised Me’ sounds like the dawn of a new day with optimistic, rising melodies. It’s a welcoming respite from all the weight and low-slung intensity that preceded it and is perhaps a hint of where The Renderers may head next. For now though, this is a powerful album, a complete and holistic work that resonates with the same abstract drama and measured intensity of a Jarmusch or Lynch film.


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