Need a soundtrack of our collapsing western society? PYRE would be a good pick. Not only because of the uncompromising music. Glice understands the art of storytelling through different channels. The music, the moods they create, the names of the songs: these two musicians from Amsterdam are excellent storytellers.
Glice is Ruben Braeken and Melle Kromhout. Braeken is a well-known figure in the Amsterdam indie underground and is active in Apneu, Katadreuffe, and Eva Braun. Kromhout finished his PhD research into noise at the University of Amsterdam in 2017, did a postdoc at Cambridge University. His book ‘The Logic of Filtering’, based on his PhD research, just came out. Glice is releasing new music regularly, but PYRE is the first proper album since Cielo (2017). The question is if albums are of any importance in the niche Glice is in. It is interesting how the duo plays with expectations: prior to the release, two singles were released: ‘Blood Sky’ and ‘Korovyev’. Both around six minutes long. The third single ‘Gold-Bug’ just came out, a seven-and-a-half minute fountain of sound.
This is typically Glice: they are master in playing with expectations. PYRE is one of their more accessible albums. All thirteen tracks have a structure, even the short and eclectic ‘Rays’ is quite melodic. The recent single ‘Gold-Bug’ and the dreamy ‘Anemone’ remind a bit of the ambient by Brian Eno and The Field. The centerpiece (26 minutes long) ‘Constantinople, 541 CE’ is the passage from the first part of the album (‘CLEAVE’) to the second (‘COALESCENCE’). The title refers to the first plague pandemic that severely affected the Byzantine empire. One-fifth of the population of Constantinople was killed during the eight years the plague lasted. The track is an amalgam of styles, sounds, samples, and moods.
Braeken and Kromhout seem to have divided the album in a first part that represents chaos and a second part that represents order, but not in the way you would think. The chaos is hearable in the un-structure of the first four songs and in the songtitles. ‘Blood Sky’ for instance could refer to the rare gameplay in mass online games where the behaviour of mobs is changed by the decisions players make. A possible reference to the unpredictability of crowd behaviour. ‘A Screw Falls to the Ground’ could refer to the poems of Xu Lizhi who threw himself from a Foxconn workers’ dormitory building in 2014, thus creating a loud but short outrage over working conditions in electronica factories in China.
The second part of the album, after the plague so to speak, is way more unpleasant than the first part. The moods are dark, sometimes melancholic but distant. As if surviving the plague doesn’t bring relief, but steers us as civilisation in an even more unpredictable direction. That’s Glice at its best: there will be no salvation and Braeken and Kromhout are only too happy to share that story with us. As if they enjoy being the bringers of bad news.
PYRE by Glice is self-released. The Logic of Filtering: How Noise Shapes the Sound of Recorded Music by Melle Kromhout is released by Oxford University Press.