*Excerpts from the album. Now available from Experimedia.net.* Despite the ironic name, the Thrill Jockey debut from Wrekmeister Harmonies is a deadly serious affair that drags the intensity of metal closer to the textural richness of an orchestra. JR Robinson's project is unquestionably not the first to aim at such an intersection, but it is one of the most convincing, accomplishing the feat with confidence, dexterity, and profound vision. You,ve Always Meant So Much to Me is a single 38 minute track that splits itself into two sides of vinyl and is built from an ensemble of Chicago-based experimental and metal musicians that contribute cello, harmonium, electronics, and harp. To be sure, not the most metal of instrumentation, but all that will change. The first half of You,ve Always Meant So Much to Me is decidedly drone-oriented, beginning with minimalist ribbons of electronics and saxophone accompaniment before blossoming into a luminous tone cloud that is thick, dense, and jaw droppingly beautiful. At 23 minutes in, though, the whole thing seamlessly and unexpectedly tears itself to shreds with cavernous vocal shrieks and guttural blasts of doom-laden distortion. It returns to a somber ensemble drone at the album's close, but everything is different, including yourself, after just listening to a thoroughly remarkable and devastating album. – Ryan Potts, Experimedia
*Includes download coupon.* JR Robinson has been writing and recording music as Wrekmeister Harmonies in various incarnations since 2006. You,ve Always Meant So Much To Me was written to accompany a film Robinson shot in decimated Detroit locations, the desert of Joshua Tree and decaying forests of Tasmania. In 2012 he brought together some of the most revered musicians in the black metal and experimental music worlds (Jef Whitehead of Leviathan, Sanford Parker and Andrew Markuszewski of Nachmystium, Jamie Fennelly aka Mind Over Mirrors, Mark Solotroff of Anatomy of Habit, Bruce Lamont of Yakuza, and more) to perform the 38 minute composition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago to much acclaim and a sold out theater. The collaborators for the live performance joined Robinson at Steve Albini,s Electrical Audio later that year to record the composition in full.
The beauty and darkness of the visuals are reflected in the music, which seeps from the ether with great melancholy. Reflective drones grow and decay, forming waves of overlapping sound that evolve into a gigantic roar of distorted guitar. Searing, disembodied howls and pummeling drums signal a shift from mournful to harrowing as Robinson and his ensemble lurch forward into the abyss. As the metal elements dwindle, electronics return to the fore, accompanied by a softly plucked harp signaling gentle finality.
Robinson began Wrekmeister Harmonies by recording sonic templates in museums in the US and Europe. These include recordings made at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Gugenheim Museum and PS1 in New York, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, SF MOMA in San Francisco, the Pompidou Center in Paris and the Art Center Berlin as well as site recordings at Joshua Tree National Park in California and both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. Robinson has taken these recordings and by collaborating with musicians Ken Vandermark, David Yow (Jesus Lizard), Mark Shippy and Pat Samson (US Maple), Matt Carson, Nate McBride, Fred Lonberg Holm, John Herndon & Jeff Parker (Tortoise), and Azita has created a unique hybrid of sound art and avant garde music.
The end result of that first incarnation of players and those recordings was dubbed Wrekmeister Harmonies: Recordings Made in Public Spaces and was released by Atavistic Records in 2009. This cd/dvd set received a top 10 honor that year from a journalist for the Village Voice,s esteemed Pazz & Jop polls for the year.