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Dutch Courage

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A thousand eyes stare at you from beyond the darkness as you writhe in interstellar agony. And as you roll around trying to figure out where you stop and the pain begins, the ghastly echo of a thousand chanting voices soothes your seemingly severed nerves. As the voices continue to build on one another you float in and out of consciousness, trying to comprehend exactly what it is that’s happening to you. Then, suddenly and without warning, the pain stops, your mind re-focuses and your soul feels completely and utterly cleansed.

Alas, this is not a tale of backwoods alien abduction. It's the experience of listening to A.M.

This Chicago-by-way-of-everywhere five-piece is a different breed of band, to say the least. Their music sounds as though it was conceived in a black hole during a rift in the cosmic continuum, rather than being cobbled together in several cramped and dingy basements in a small university neighborhood. Their antecedent influences are familiar: My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Spiritualized, etc. Not content with crafting music that sounds like their heroes, Salomé instead transcends these influences, molding and shaping them into musical forms you haven't heard before.

The blistering and epic “5118” opens A.M., its sprawling scope and marathon duration setting the stage for the mind-bending intergalactic opera which follows. The first act, “Dead Princess”, is a feedback-laced instrumental melee that sounds like an orchestra whose instruments are melting as they play. “The Object Lesson” and “Waiting” follow, threading heavily effected guitars and militaristic drum cadences around sublime flights of vocal fancy. But for all this intoxicating beauty, every song on A.M. pales in comparison to the album's centerpiece, “Easter Island”. Its sound is massive and intoxicating, a methodical and soothing journey through an expansive tunnel of incandescent bliss and pure light. It is without a doubt the finest piece of achingly gorgeous space-rock to be recorded since MBV hung up their six-strings all those years ago. Album closer “Tarantula” swipes its name, as well as its translucent guitar rave-ups and aquatic distortion, from early '90s shoegazing pioneers Ride -- but manages to never sound remotely like them.

Frankly, A.M. is one of the most beautiful and effecting albums I've heard this year. And in a year that has seen new releases from a number of heavy hitters, that’s certainly saying something.

-- Jason Jackowiak
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