Drab Majesty : An Object In Motion

Drab Majesty An Object in Motion

Sometimes an identity crisis is a good thing. On Drab Majesty‘s new mini-album An Object In Motion, a bit too robust to be an EP but perhaps a hair too slight to truly call a new album, they move past the shimmering curtain at the barrier of their particular web of gothic synth music into the vistas of progressive music directly. There is, of course, always the lingering ghost of prog haunting the corridors of gothic psychedelia, seizing up a particular wing of the more forlorn and emotionally complex world of progressive and psychedelic music of the ’60s and ’70s, but here we see the full unvarnished thing, be it in the shimmering post-Genesis classical guitar instrumental “Cape Perpetua” or the roiling prog epic “Yield to Force” which closes the record, towering at a mighty 15 minutes. That said, the approach to prog here still feels richly indebted to precisely the same psychedelic dance music of the ’90s that likewise lurked inside the heart of Drab Majesty, a particular nearly-Primal Scream interpolation of house music.

These approaches serve less to make the music more otherworldly in the sense of being detached emotionally but instead to enrich the native sense of the forlorn in their music. If anything, this is something their first two LPs struggled with, albeit not necessarily to their detriment; the music often felt so compellingly dancey that even when the subject matter became emotionally fraught, there was still this eruptive euphoria, feeling often closer to the way The Cure manifests mania in their music. This mini-LP meanwhile sits firmly in forlorn and maudlin terrain, lingering in the post-Pink Floyd depressive haze that is a necessary sonic pilgrimage for any goth band worth their salt. This is not, it turns out, a leather and sweaty clubs goth record; this is a rain-soaked lace in the graveyard goth record. The imagery of this record is rich and deep: your moldy heart, leaned against the gravestone. Powerful stuff.

The limited number of tracks here combined with the moderate runtime makes it feel clear that Drab Majesty is playing at potential identities here. Given the strength of this material, drawing from a distinctly post-Emeralds/Steve Hauschildt approach to guitar-driven progressive ambiance, one hopes that they continue to drive into this space. It addresses a component of their second album which, in retrospect, feels lacking compared to their debut: a clear imagistic thrust. We may pay lip service to the song-oriented nature of gothic music but at its heart it still functions in a deeply album-oriented manner, much like the quiet specter of progressive music haunting its shape. We desire, it seems, some ghastly form to manifest itself across the runtime of a goth record, that it might accrue a gestalt characteristic separate from but indebted to any specific song on the record. Take, for example, the twin peaks of the genre, both by the Cure: Disintegration and Pornography. Even saying their name alone in the right circles conjures specific emotional and imagistic terrain; its not that the independent songs of those records aren’t of deep value, but there is a distinct characteristic to them as albums that renders each song more like chapters in a book or scenes in a film rather than wholly distinct segments.

An Object In Motion returns Drab Majesty to this sense of through-composed power. The record is 12 minutes shorter and half the number of tracks as Modern Mirror but feels denser, richer, even as its material is ironically much more muslin and lace than the neon-stained leather and latex of that record. Admittedly, this is a dramatized breakage between the two rather than something purely objective; relistening to Mirror will reveal, as we stated in our review of it on its release, a strong record and capable followup to the debut. However, it’s hard not to read the lengthy pause in material as not entirely predicated on COVID but also emerging somewhat from a classic sense of what is to be done next. Mirror‘s true weakness, in a sense, is the same as its strength, feeling more often like an expansion of The Demonstration rather than a distinct project with its own clear identity. An Object In Motion once again sets this right. A path forward for Drab Majesty seems apparent now, one I fervently hope they seize up.

Label: Dais

Year: 2023

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