[Ecstatic Peace; 2008]
As half of the exhilarating, first-rate drone quartet Double Leopards, Michael Bernstein and Maya Miller created chillingly expansive extreme noise-- a distinctive mesh of sounds that peaked with the group's brilliantly sinister release, Halve Maen
. Since forming Religious Knives in 2005, the duo have released a slew of CD-Rs and cassettes, largely through their own Heavy Tapes imprint. Now, with the addition of percussionist Nate Nelson of Mouthus and bassist Todd Cavallo, they've been spreading their sonic rash through basement shows, living rooms, and the beat-up tape decks of noise enthusiasts.
was produced with long-time supporter and label owner Thurston Moore, and from the crawling guitar line of early track "Basement Watch", it suggests a considerably more melodic, traditionally structured album than one might expect considering the ear-splitting frenzy of their previous releases. Of course, this is all relative: The Door
is still firmly in a field of its own, offering six tracks that are equal in barbed psychedelic power yet compliment one another in such a way that this album-- although brief by the clock-- feels substantial, fully-realized, and bizarrely anthemic.
Stretching the sinews of their sound almost to the breaking point, Religious Knives find a balance between the repetitive rhythmic skeleton of krautrock and the psychedelic keyboard thrusts of early Doors. The band's collective attunement to the finer elements of noise turns out to be an ideal complement to their songwriting skills, particularly because they use abrasiveness sparingly and wisely-- just barely peaking through, yet always present. As vocalists, Miller and Bernstein wrestle against each other in tough monotones; Miller has shadows of Grace Slick burning beneath her dark tones, and, combined with Bernstein's hollowed-out baritone, it's gloriously menacing when they sing lines such as "Where does it come from/ The feeling you get when you want to hold back nothing/ Your eyes are weapons in broad daylight/ Your fists are iron fucking arrows/ Control is lost" on "Decisions Are Made".
builds up in intensity as its course develops. The opening tracks "Basement Watch" and live improvisation "Downstairs" have the same lurking energy that characterizes the album, but "Major Score" slithers down into a dripping mess, upending the distinction between keyboards and guitars while riding the distortion hot enough to have shades of the Black Angels. By the time "On a Drive" rolls around, the listener is lead even further through the group's murky waters, as a bare-boned drum patterns set the pace for Bernstein's tale of midnight beach wandering and a flood of gloomy fuzz. Religious Knives have said that their aim with this album is to capture the feeling of Brooklyn's streets, and The Door
does indeed sound as though their music is reflecting off concrete. Or being burned into it.
- Mia Lily Clarke, October 20, 2008