Horseback Dead Ringers * CD

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Horseback Dead Ringers * CD. Recording information: The Chateau (2012-2016).
Jenks Miller's experimental Horseback project has been the aural expression of his many musical passions. He's traveled the spaceways, both inner and outer, with post-psych drone, doom, a distinctly American brand of black metal, Americana, and blasted boogie. Dead Ringers loops back and through many sonic terrains he's explored in the past while pushing through to new ones. Miller recorded, engineered, and mixed most of the album solo. It is easily the most spaced-out record in the Horseback catalog. The ruined black metal vocals of the past are gone, replaced by a limpid, reedy clean voice. A ghostly Rhodes piano, spindly rhythm loops, alternately spidery and pulsing synth lines, and spectral, spiraling guitars populate the opener "Modern Pull." Miller has obviously been listening to a lot of vintage electronic music and minimal Krautrock, as well as experimental 21st century stuff. It haunts the margins of "Shape of the One Thing" as additions of T-Dream-esque sequencers, jazz organ, and a Western soundtrack melody -- more Nico Fidenco than Earth this time. "A Bolt from the Blue" delivers a dubwise bassline, a reverbed slide guitar, a labyrinthine Richard Thompson-esque solo, a wafting Wurlitzer, and ethereal organ atop a circular, repetitive rhythm, all of it colored by bleeding echoes. "The Cord Itself" is one of two cuts featuring his Rose Cross NC (and real life) partner Elysse Thebner-Miller handling processing, elemental drones, and synths amid ambient soundscapes, guitar noise, and an exploratory organ à la Sun Ra. "In Another Time, In and Out of Form" features Miller's live quartet in a chugging, one-chord psych vamp with squalling guitar solos, echo-chambered vocals, and blasting organ. Closer "Descended from the Crown" is the set's longest jam at over 16 minutes. Thebner-Miller lays out a plethora of drones, throbs, and hums as processes, while wah-wah guitars, organ, and clattering, syncopated percussion and loops enter eerily from the ether. Occasional bursts of fractured guitar and dubby out effects are threaded through the mix. It takes a while to develop, then begins unraveling itself almost immediately. It's so dark and entrancing, this sprawling track simultaneously seems to go on forever and slip by in an instant. At its nadir, only a subdued, cyclical drone and silvery modal blues guitar remain. While Half Blood and Piedmont Apocrypha embraced what Miller had been articulating with Mount Moriah, Rose Cross NC, and on his solo records, Dead Ringers evolves out of them to envision a shadowy new frontier. While haunted by the ghosts of the past, he opens wide to receive them in the most aesthetically adept way of moving forward. While this is easily Horseback's most "laid-back" effort, it's also the one with the most going on musically. It's impossible to pin it all down; simply surrender, let it have its way. You won't regret it. ~ Thom Jurek


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