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Somewhere along the line I’ve missed something here. Somehow, and I really cannot understand why, House of Low Culture have accumulated a fan base who have been spreading positive vibes through the scene of ambient music. Aaron Turner’s side-project have received glittering reviews and positive feedback from critics and fans alike since their arrival on to the scene back in 2000. Around the same time this project was formed, Turner was also releasing the debut full-length for Isis, ‘Celestial’, which contained its own form of ambiance along the way, although considerably different to that of this band, who’re tagged with numerous descriptions ranging from ambient drone to doom metal. As far as I can tell, there is no metal to be found on this sophomore effort, entitled ‘Getting’ Sentimental’. In a similar vein to the pretentious Procer Veneficus, Turner has formed this into an ambient project of minimalist proportions. There really isn’t much in the way of music to speak of. No real melodies, no rhythm and certainly no direction. I still cannot fathom why Turner felt the need to use this band as an outlet.
House of Low Culture takes ambiance to silly proportions on the first song by offering nothing but strange sounding electrical currents. This could be caused by the distortion of a guitar, as well as its feedback, or it could be formed by a keyboard, which seems to be the most likely solution. Although the guitars do come into affect on the song second on the first disc, of which there are two, there is no reason to the madness that ensues. The self-titled song definitely offers more in the way of actual content than the dull introduction to the sophomore, but there is a directionless feel to the way in which the song is shaped. From beginning to the eventual end, which couldn’t have come soon enough, the song flows lifelessly along an unadventurous pattern which doesn’t dispel my fears that this record was bound to be as atrocious as the debut. In actual fact, it’s even worse than the debut. ‘Gettin’ Sentimental’ takes minimalism to new lows and should be used for nothing more than something calming to sleep to, but be warned, this may induce a comatose state, so be careful! I’m surprised by Turner’s lack of invention since Isis have become one of the most inspirational bands in the post-hardcore/sludge departments.
Alongside iconic bands such as Neurosis, Isis have become a mainstay in the scene, providing brilliant full-length after brilliant full-length and supposedly grandiose live performances which are equal to the performances in the studio. Turner’s lack of ambition serves only to confuse as House of Low Culture solemnly fizz out over a prolonged period of time. Even at just over 20 minutes long, this record still feels too long! It could have been cut down to 5 minutes and still had the same mind-numbing affects that it had after 20 agonising minutes of pain and discomfort. I almost feel embarrassed for Turner and the participating musicians at this lacklustre projection of monotonous ambiance. However, my embarrassment slowly turns to anger as the realisation that everything Turner touches doesn’t turn to gold becomes a harsh reality. The idea that House of Low Culture could match some of the doom/drone hybrids around at the moment is simply ludicrous. His performance at the head of this band should serve only to highlight why the bands at the top of this hybrid are so unique.
This band is, basically, masking itself as a hybrid of doom and drone. This isn’t either one of those. This doesn’t have the complex mood structures of doom, it doesn’t consist of doom laden vocals, or gloomy atmospherics. This doesn’t pertain to drone either. There is no heavy distortion, no deeply entrancing melodies beneath the wall-of-noise barrier. There truly is nothing worthwhile taking note of that serves as a positive reason to listen to this sophomore. Even the debut offered more in the way of positives and I felt about as indifferent to that as humanly possible. Although the final song does show some invention, it’s a case of too little, too late as far as I’m concerned. If the record had followed along its less-than-formulaic style then the end result may have been different, but “what ifs” don’t offer me much in the way of joy when reflecting over what little this sophomore had to offer. This sophomore is nothing more than a big steaming turd.