thisquietarmy | Unconquered 2008-2018
Midira Records (2xCD/DL)
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, Canadian experimental guitarist/electronic musician Eric Quach aka thisquietarmy brings back Unconquered 2008-2018 with an additional disc of forty-five minutes of unreleased material. This is a big re-release for the artist’s o.g. debut as following in it’s trail in the coming month/s is Conquerer, a companion 480pp tour book/flexi disc.
Starting off with Immobilization we are immersed into a flocking, whirring drone with calming textures and atmosphere for days on end. What sounds like a storm brewing generates a floating melody that appears and fades in the phases of complex wall of drone. Battlefield Arkestrah features fellow Canadian noisemaker Aidan Baker and keeps the lid fairly contained behind faded strings that align and overlap into the space, yet something lurks in this mysterious corner. The guitar reminds the ear of traditional Italian folk songs in their elated, burnished sway.
Every now and then a single percussive thwack keeps the pace. And just when you were slumping slightly into your easy chair, a cycled buzz of pedaled strings offers a flurry of dizzying delight. This followed by the fairly cranked (and sweetly titled) Warchitects which has just the right balance of noise to drown out the militaristic percussion, and verse vica. Under the blur and through the wide-scope of sound you can make out a rhythm and further goings-on. It’s pretty much a rock track but has much more in common with, say, My Bloody Valentine than with Def Leppard – just saying.
Along the way you are faced with the savagely raucous (The Sun Destroyers), the dexterous noodling (Death of a Sailor) and the frail yet uniform alterna-rock/pop with the occasional vocal as heard on The Great Escapist – a track that reminds me of The Cranberries. And then you come across a pure glistening gem like Mercenary Flags, with is beat-pulse and perfect timing. Not only is it a reprieve from some of the harder edges here, it uses a new time signature that slows and quickens as it moves along, making some kind of sense of an atonal structure. It pushes and pulls with crafted guitar lines and that continuous flared beat.
Conquerer (book, coming soon)
Quach manages to introduce a sizzling, industrial blur into the mix, offering an abstracted balance in this forlorn masterpiece. For me tracks like Empire are pretty intermediate in the light of most of the material here, though it offers what was an introduction to an artist at the time, and likely this represents his most vulnerable, it’s still quite listenable. And before we move on to the newly added material, this disc ends with the epic fifteen minute Dronewars. This is what thisquietarmy does best, builds atmosphere, piece by piece, or via luminous passages. This is like a quirky mix of chamber music, psychedelic drone and hypnotic seance. Think Spiritualized mixed with Godspeed You Black Emperor, with roar-like underpinnings that are bursting at the seams yet just barely contained. Yeah!
The half-hour long Into Dust / Out of Dust kickstarts the unreleased material and was inspired by Mazzy Star (Into Dust). It’s an emotional affair that becomes engorged with thickly woven guitar drones that wax/wane throughout. Once the piece reaches a plateau about sixteen minutes in the proceedings flatten and separate, and finally settle into a melodious structure at about the twenty minute mark, so if you are one who dabbles in structural sound you will fall in love with the way this takes shape, and then becomes a rather harmonious ambient work that jangles with a certain lightness to its conclusion.
Also included are two live double tracks: Mercenary Flags/Empire (Live) and Battlefield Arkestrah/Warchitects (Live), so if you want to hear the above in front of the eyes and ears that witnessed these fusions first time around, these are combos of note. Both utilize the structure of a quiet slow build into the realm of unknown din in performance.
Finally a shortened variation on The Great Escapist (Unplugged) offers what sounds like an archived tape from ancient history with a blurry mono feel. It’s like someone unearthed an old scratched up jazz record that hasn’t seen the light of day in decades. Here it’s a petite folk song with a vocal by Meryem Yildiz that seems gravelly, even more yearning than on the original.