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Red Sparowes Flood Mercury Lounge with Instrumentals

April 14th, 2010

Red Sparowes – Mercury Lounge – April 13, 2010

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If you’re going to tackle weighty conceptual arguments like mankind’s inevitable sixth extinction, then you’re going to need some time to do it. Red Sparowes are no strangers to tackling sprawling instrumental soundtracks, and they continue to compose epic-length tracks on their most recent full-length, The Fear Is Excruciating and Therein Lies the Answer, which made up most of their set at Mercury Lounge last night. The lineup has slightly changed since their last tour four years ago, but the projected disconnected doomsday-science imagery was still a part of their live set.

Without any discernible vocals, the audience was left with only a grainy black-and-white film and massive song titles to guide them, like “Finally, as That Blazing Sun Shone Down Upon Us Did We Know That True Enemy Was the Voice of Blind Idolatry; and Only Then Did We Begin to Think for Ourselves.” The songs are as immense as the full-volume assault a trio of guitars can produce. The band isn’t out to impress anyone with technical competence. They have nothing to prove, and they let the mammoth instrumentals stretch out and run. If you find yourself drifting off a little bit in the middle of “Annihilate the Sparrow, That Stealer of Seed, and Our Harvests Will Abound; We Will Watch Our Wealth Flood In,” it’s nothing against Red Sparowes. I imagine you might have had the same experience 100 years ago in a classical concert hall.

When music is presented in this pure form, the most challenging thing is to evoke a feeling with nothing but amplified vibrating strings and thundering drums. As great as it is to have this intimacy with the band only a few feet away, in some ways it felt counter-intuitive to see them there, because their sound is meant to be blasted over open savannas—or at the very least outdoor shows. But, still, you go into Mercury Lounge expecting a journey, from overwhelming hair-raising metal to delicate, plodding slide-steel guitar. And that’s what sets Red Sparowes apart from other post-rock instrumentalists: They are attempting a grand gesture in the inherently universal emotional nature of music. —Jason Dean

(Red Sparowes play Mercury Lounge again tonight.)