Monday, August 22, 2011

Discography Rediscovered: Trance to the Sun's "Atrocious Virgin" (2001)

Here I am again with a long overdue installment of Discography Rediscovered, the series in which I look back on older albums in my music collection. This time I'm taking a look at Trance to the Sun's magnificent "Atrocious Virgin".

I happened upon this album by complete and total chance. Working at my college radio station my senior year we received hundreds of albums by various labels in the hopes we'd give some of them airtime. I never had the privilege of listening to these albums, that was handled by higher ups, and frankly I didn't care because all I wanted to play was goth/electro songs I was familiar with anyways.

One day I saw this album sitting in the throw-away bin, someone having given it a listen and decided that it stunk. I saw the cover and something about it grabbed me. I thought it was by a trance group, but the art conveyed a more artful/indie band. I fished it out of the bin, took it back to my dorm room, and discovered one of my favorite albums.

I discovered that Trance to the Sun are very much not a trance group. Instead it's akin to goth rock but with more electronics and a heavy dose of psychadelic rock, with a bit of a shoegazing vibe. The center of the band is the intriguingly named Ashkelon Sain, with various females on vocals depending on album (this album features Ingrid Blue on vocals). Atrocious Virgin, I would learn, was to be the last album by this group.

Apparently the band had been around for most of the 90s but I'd never heard of them. In fact, most people in the 'goth' scene aren't very familiar with them either, and it's virtually impossible to find their albums, even through file-sharing sites (alas I'll probably never get my hands on the"Florakleptononomy" live album).

Back to the album. It's a perfectly crafted album with dense layers of music. The songs vary from energetic rockers such as "Thistle Lurid" to slow, plodding instrumentals (such as "Icicle Song" which comes immediately after, and perfectly compliments, the former track). The whole thing is held together beautifully by Ingrid Blue's lyrics. She sounds like Lewis Carroll's Alice gone all dark and moody. While I love Blue's lyrics and voice, I could see this as a point of contention for some. If you're not into moody goth lyrics pondering death, with vocals that at times sound like a little girl (see reference to Alice above), and at times which are hard to discern, I could understand not liking them.

The production on the album is also quite a feat. The liner notes state that the album was recorded and put together over the space of a year, but you could never tell. There's something Ashkelon Sain has done here that makes the album sound like it was recorded live right in front of you in the studio. It's really phenomenal.

I'm a sucker for long, drawn out songs with multiple movements (such as Jim Steinman produced Sisters of Mercy albums), and Atrocious Virgin does not disappoint. The final track, "Song of the Silent Crew" clocks in at an impressive 17 minutes, with parts ranging from goth rock, to drum circles, and back to psychadelic rock. In short, the song would be great to drop acid to.

However, my favorite track, at a mere 11 minutes long, is "Horse Head Lake". Taking a good five minutes just to get to the first verse, Horse Head Lake is a terrific odyssey of sound, from the opening strums of the guitar, to a short spoken segment by whom I presume is Mr. Sain, to Ingrid Blue's lyrics, to the ending minute consisting of the sound of distant rain, this is just such a fantastic piece of music. Alas, the only version I can find online is a condensed version that drops those first five minutes, listen to it here.

If my review hasn't piqued your interest, then maybe Tom Schulte from AMG will. He writes, "Trance to the Sun continues where the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd left off. A dense swirl of guitar dissonance, synth, and drum machine lying under the haunting voice of Ingrid Blue... this is an audiophile psychedelic comeback experience worthy of comparison to Pink Floyd's Meddle." Since I'm not nearly as familiar with Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd as some of the folks here at this blog, I'll leave you to decide... if you can actually find the damn album (and speaking of Pink Floyd, here's a cover off a previous album of Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun). Regardless, this is really one of my favorite albums in my collection, one I keep coming back to again and again.

Recommended tracks you can actually listen to:
Sleeping with the Natives
Thistle Lurid
Horse Head Lake (short cut)
Homewrecker (live)


Little Earl said...

I think I'm kinda liking it Zrbo! AMG compares them to Slowdive, and I'm always down with some Slowdive. It's definitely not "toss it in the trash at the radio station" quality; not sure if you had a talk with the higher-ups about that.

For some reason, a lot of rock writers seem to be overly-fond of comparing albums to Pink Floyd or Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, just for the fun of it I assume. Because usually I don't quite see it. This band, for instance, has a female vocalist.

And now, not to sound the Blog Police, but I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with you adding the "Songs From the '00s That I Like" tag to this post! That was for a very specific set of posts with a very specific format, not just any post on the blog regarding music from the last decade. Besides, this post is about an album, not a song! How would you feel if I used your "Discography Rediscovered" tag on some barely related post of mine?

That said, I am excited to see the return of this series.

Herr Zrbo said...

The Blog Police came to my house last night and gave me a fair warning. I complied and gave up the offending tag. Later, I had to drive down to the local Bad Boys Bail Bonds to secure a bond for the tags release. He's home now resting after his frightening night in the slammer. I told him to be careful and not do it again.

Little Earl said...

If I had to come up with a list of Most Unimportant Things In The World, I think "Tags on Cosmic American Blog" would be very close to the top.

But seriously, it's not "Songs From The '00s That WE like," it's "Songs From The '00s That I Like."

I, Little Earl.

I mean, someone might click on one of your posts and think that I am endorsing music that I may not have actually endorsed, or hell, may not have even heard. It's like identity theft! It's like Ronald Reagan co-opting "Born In The USA" for his presidential campaign without Springsteen's permission. My ideas are being twisted and perverted.

Again, not important.