Friday, March 13, 2015

EP Corner: Ribcage

Today's blog represents a brave new step for EP Corner. Until now, I've only used these posts to look back on EPs that are at least a couple of years old; today, I'm going to review an EP that came out two days ago.

Albatross Archive are a Cardiff-based duo with a genuinely unique sound: 'electronic-jazz-indie' works well enough as a rough description, but really, it's the sort of thing you just have to hear for yourself. Things, another EP of theirs, is already part of my library, but that was made when Albatross Archive were a four-piece, and they've taken some pretty giant steps away from the pastoral gentleness of that release since then. Nowadays, they're sounding braver, bolder, and harsher than they sounded before.

And that brings us to Ribcage, AA's new three-track EP, released this past Wednesday. Before I had even heard a note, I knew that this would be a worthy addition to EP Corner; here's how the band are describing Ribcage across their various internet channels:
"Ribcage follows a character in the grips of total obsession with an unnamed entity (I Still See), every moment spent dreaming of its possession and terrified of its desertion. This leads to losing all in its pursuit (Matches) and reflecting on how their life has been squandered, envying those who’ve never had to experience the same. Release is found through acceptance that this cannot be (Lost And Found) and they are left with a new sense of renewal, recovery and hope, ready to begin again."
That's right - it's a concept EP! I've no idea why this sort of thing isn't attempted more often, but I'm glad that Albatross Archive have done it, because Ribcage is all the more engaging for its three-act narrative thread.

The story is a pretty straightforward one, told many times, but what's truly interesting about the above paragraph is the duo's use of the words "unnamed entity". At first glance - and, indeed, first listen - it's easy to assume that said entity is the protagonist's love interest, and that Ribcage is a short collection of songs about unrequited love.

That's certainly one way of looking at it, but I would like to propose an alternative hypothesis: the aforementioned "unnamed entity" is some kind of Lovecraftian elder god, and Ribcage's main character is some kind of obsessed cultist, struggling with his own conscience as he works to bring this unknowable monster to our dimension.

Pictured: Shub-Niggurath and her thousand young

Looking at Ribcage from this angle casts new light on many of its elements. For one thing, the presence of a bona fide eldritch abomination would make the uneasy, skittering sound of the EP's opening track far more appropriate:

Does this sound like the music of love to you? Or the song of a troubled cultist who wants to be eternally bonded with an impossibly old monster-god?

Then there's Matches, the middle song, and its recurring lament: "How I want your life!"

It's a clever double-entendre, this: the protagonist is jealous of normal people who don't have to contend with these feelings, but he's also keen to sacrifice them to a horrifying space deity.

When I first had this thought, it seemed outlandish, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Why else would AA refer to the object of these odes as an "unnamed entity"?

Okay, so perhaps they wanted to leave it up to the audience, allowing each individual listener to fill in the gaps with the person or thing that made the most sense to them. That's fine, and I'm sure everyone else will colour in the blank parts differently, but what makes most sense to me is a Cthulian nightmare.

That's just as valid as anyone else's explanation, and it makes the final release - Lost and Found, wherein the narrator finally lets go and his heart starts "beating again" - all the more of a relief.

If you want to make up your own mind, Ribcage is available from Albatross Archive's Bandcamp page.

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