Time for us to take our final jaunt this month through Uncharted Territory and we have turned up at a very opportune moment. Our last act are Teesside seven piece Abel Raise The Cain whose debut album, For Strangers Only, is released today (31st March). Originally intended as an EP, the demand for their music convinced the band to extend it even further to an LP which collects together some of the singles released since the band's formation in 2012 alongside some new material.
The tone is set from the off by opening track Awakening, an atmospheric overture that feels like slipping through a vortex into another world. This segues nicely into One Thing, a track about finding hope to cling onto, even in the darkest of days. It is notable for its profound use of the words of Martin Luther King Jr who drifts in faintly like an echo through time. We'll Never Know comes across as a lament to dreams themselves as much as it is a farewell to a specific dreamer. Lead single Black Swans is a track of anthemic resistance, underplayed in its low moments but overwhelming in its crescendos.
The album takes it down a notch with Million Dollar Night, a starlit ode to the reckless abandon and futile endeavours of youth, and Hideaway, a sincere track about coping with grief. Closing track Every Rise rounds the journey off with a stunning three minute collage of noise, laced with Sigur Ros-like melodic washes, song extracts, partially heard speech and gusts of a gentle breeze. You are leaving Abel Raise The Cain's stream of consciousness now and slowly returning to the sounds of the real world, like someone gently tuning in a radio.
There are many that might say that For Strangers Only is an album of dark disillusionment, a reflection of current societal shifts towards fear and uncertainty. For me, it is an album of hope, of defiance. Abel Raise The Cain seem to always be looking for the ray of sunlight bursting through the grey clouds, the higher plain of existence that will make everything that has come before worthwhile. Something that I found unique was the lack of a customary pause between the tracks. Ordinarily, I would note this as a bad thing as it does not give the listener any opportunity to reflect on one piece before hurtling on to the next. The band, however, have clearly thought about this and, instead, insert a momentary wordless pause into each track. This, more often than not, is accompanied by the gorgeous violin sounds of Saerla Murphy. It is a technique that is used to absolute perfection and one that I would like to see more artists utilise.
The band make a number of references to their wall of sound, a technique pioneered by Phil Spector in the 1960s which involves layering multiple takes of the same instrument over one another. This is very evident in Abel Raise The Cain's epic, rich tone. Much like Arcade Fire, who are cited as an influence, their tracks pull you into an intricate orchestral soundscape. Lead singer Sean Crichton's voice flows through the tracks like an iridescent kite whipped on a whirlwind of music. Completely undetachable from its surroundings, it acts as our guide through the songs – the euphoric Virgil to our Dante. For Strangers Only is more than just a collection of songs, it is a musical experience – a relentless sensory overload that may appear chaotic on the surface but, in reality, is imbued with a magnificent depth that cries out for repeated listens.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Month
“You’ll not be there on birthdays or Christmas, or when I have a child//But I will hold on, I will hold on”
Amidst the darkness
Cain are Abel to see light,
Hope for the future
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