Grails is a band most easily described as “restless”. They’ve stubbornly pushed against the staid cliches of instrumental music and towards new sonic frontiers, creating heavily textured albums, stacked deep with epic song hooks and exotic instrumentation. Grails carry echoes of the classic bands of many genres, but they combine those various styles onto a single record, under one umbrella of musical freedom. They are the renowned stylistic globetrotters of a fanatical underground record collecting scene, able to hybridize their disparate musical heritage (from The Ventures to ‘Tibetan Crime-Jazz’) with grace and confidence to build new languages out of genres that were never intended to work together.
Grails | Invitation To Ruin
The first incarnation of Grails emerged in 2003 on Neurot Recordings with “The Burden of Hope” and then “Redlight” in 2004. The two albums, drawn from a common batch of recording sessions, were defined by a live and earthy folk/jazz style with almost no overdubbing or post-production.
The “Interpretations…” ep, recorded amidst a late 2004 European tour for Southern Records’ ‘Latitudes’ series, revealed their international psych addictions and marked a seismic stylistic shift for the band. After the departure of violinist Timothy Horner, the recalibrated band released Black Tar Prophecies, Vol’s 1,2,&3 on Important Records in 2006, their new mission statement for a dark, reckless approach to experimentation and the beginning of a string of releases that would meet with continously escalating acclaim for their restless re-imagining of what instrumental music can be.
Grails | Black Tar Prophecies 1,2 & 3
Lilacs & Champagne, the project of Grails’ Emil Amos and Alex Hall, is built on warped samples and scorched guitar solos, creating a playful, psychedelic take on damaged funk and pop. The duo’s 2012 self-titled debut suggested a template for a new kind of psychotic mood music, and the follow up, Danish & Blue, manages to be both darker and more ambitious. “Lilacs & Champagne was created to be a direct tribute to the musical outsiders of the past” says Hall. Made up of sounds sourced from Scandinavian porn and hyper-obscure b-movies from the late ’60s, Danish & Blue pulls from records other DJs wouldn’t touch by strategy. “We want to twist the knife as far as it can go into sample-based methodology, by taking pieces of loner music history and empowering them to shed light on both the pathetic side of human life and its improbable beauty.” says Amos.
Lilacs & Champagne | Hamburgers & Tangerines
Mid-album cut “Hamburgers & Tangerines” is built on moody keys and a subterranean groove that recalls both sleazy cop movies and cathartic late night revelations. Danish & Blue is an album that is disinterested in boundaries, unafraid to pull from every genre imaginable in service of a specific mood: from a dark lounge slither, to frustrated down-tempo, to wailing proggy guitar rock. It feels at once like a deeply personal journey through cultural ephemera and neon-lit samples that are collaged together so seamlessly that they’re able to walk the border between tasteful and tacky with abandon.
Lilacs & Champagne | Le Grand HQ
It’s hard to pull off such a cohesive mood piece from found sources, but Amos and Hall are so clearly in love with the sampled material that it never feels anything but natural. Title track “Danish & Blue” is all digital chaos and hyper-compressed drums, with the duo creating machine funk from vintage synth samples and expertly placed streaks of guitar. It’s knowing but visceral, tongue-in-cheek but dead serious about mining unexpected and disparate places for golden moments. On the too-brief “Sour/Sweet,” the duo crafts low-key beauty from stuttered drums and a distant, looped vocal sample that slowly teases out over warm vinyl crackle and piano. You feel like it should last forever.
Grails + Lilacs & Champagne
Friday, 07 March 2014 | 20:00 CET
Comet | Falckensteinstr. 47 | 10997 Berlin/Kreuzberg