In addition to more than a handful of other bands, all three members of Los Angeles heavy psych rockers Marriages have been involved in the instrumental post-metal outfit Red Sparowes at one point or another. For anyone who heard either of the first two albums that Isis-derived side-project-plus put out on Neurosis’ Neurot Recordings, that should give some reasonable estimation of what Marriages uses as their creative base for their Sargent House debut, Kitsune.
By comparison, however, Kitsune is shorter, less self-indulgent, and more song-based than most of Red Sparowes’ echoing explorations—though some of that infinite range of distortion remains. The major change on these six tracks is that guitarist/pianist/flutist Emma Ruth Rundle also contributes vocals and helps give a song like opener “Ride In My Place” its shape, which is still well within the realm of psychedelic post-rock, but not quite as willing to let go of structure. Ultimately, the album’s adherence to such familiarities as verses and choruses pulls it back from an edge of would-be progressivism (and into, I’d argue, actual progressivism) and makes even an ultra-ambient piece like “Body Of Shade” something listeners can grasp onto.
The rhythm section of bassist Greg Burns and drummer Dave Clifford are both done favors by the production and mixing of Toshi Kasai (The Melvins, Helmet, etc.), and as highlight cut “Ten Tiny Fingers” winds its way through some of Kitsune’s best stretches, Marriages sounds like an established band sure of their aesthetic. The album’s second half ranges further—“Pelt” is a wash of noise and feedback and “White Shape” injects space-doom-style groove as the heaviest of the material here; Burns’ tone reminding some of Ufomammut’s low-end depth—but they do well tying it all together on closer “Part The Dark Again.”
Side B caps with enough heft and range of influence to bridge the gap between Radiohead and Quest For Fire before its second half offsets long-held guitar notes with driving, churning rhythms in what’s become the post-metal tradition. Kitsune probably won’t redefine post-metal, the stylistic mining of which over the better part of the last decade has left mostly hollow, but solid songwriting is universal, and Marriages show on their first offering that they’re well suited to crafting a balance between the esoteric and the concrete.