reviewed by Michael Thomas
Noli timere in Latin means “don’t be afraid.” They were the last words of poet Seamus Heaney, texted to his son. How does it apply to Construction & Destruction’s latest album? The band has always been hyper-literate in its lyrics (in this album you’ll hear “Hark!” and “Horror vacui!” as interjections), and these two words of Latin are both reassuring and ominous.
The duo of Colleen Collins and David Trenaman has always been one of experimentation and intensity, and this album has lots of tension. But the band also explores a somewhat softer side—and the silkier arrangements are just as impressive.
Of course, “silkier” in terms of this duo means something very different. Take a song like “Unfinished Horses,” one of the five songs on the album where Collins takes the vocal reins. Anyone who’s heard the band before knows that Collins’ vocals can change from soothing to shrieking at the drop of a hat, and at first her vocals in this slower-paced song are the former, with an added bit of wavering effect. But as she moves on, the guitars in the song get heavier, and her vocals match their intensity.
But the masterstroke of “soft into loud” on this album is another Collins song, “Lusus Naturae” (which means “freak of nature”). This nearly seven-minute song is two extremes fighting for control. At first, the instrumentation of the song is changing every five to 10 seconds or so, from barely anything to loud strums of guitar. As the listener you can sense the tide changing later though, as the loudness becomes more and more apparent, until the loudness wins and the last few minutes of the song are a huge roar of guitar intensity.
Trenaman’s songs are a mix of soft and intense as well, like “Running Glass” and the astonishing “One of These,” one of the gentlest and most beautiful songs this band has ever put out. Some simpler guitar mellows out the song as Trenaman sings “These aren’t the days for this…there’ll be other days.” Unhinged Trenaman is just as fun, like in the crazy “Rosebush,” with a guitar riff that could set the scene for a car chase in Mad Max.
Together, the duo are unstoppable. “Peace/Agency” is a killer song, from the repeating staccato guitar riff to the lyrics that speak to an impending monster. This is a song in which noli timere is most definitely the ominous phrase.
From blazing guitar riffs to spare organ arrangements, Construction & Destruction have always been masters of tension, and their newly found soft side leaves even more room for big things down the line.
Top Tracks: “Peace/Agency”; “One of These”; “Lusus Naturae”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)