Music » Record Reviews

Play Something Quiet, My Head's Exploding: Aquarian Blood's New Masterpiece


When one recovers after any trauma, from a bad trip to having your heart carelessly ripped to shreds, there comes a moment when a quiet recognition of your own survival sets in. You may walk on eggshells, you may have a nervous tic, but the birds are singing, the breeze blows, the clouds roll by. It's a time when hard truths set in.

Believe it or not, this is the feeling of the new album on Goner Records by local punk ravers Aquarian Blood. In more mundane terms, one might call it the perfect hangover record, but it aims deeper and wider than that, and it delivers. Say you've just been dealt a cold hand by a thoughtless lover, or by death itself. You sit on the couch after a hard night of pounding your head against the wall. A friend, trying to help, puts on this record. And from the first quiet guitar notes, you breathe a sigh of relief:  Is this vintage Segovia? Or wait, early Donovan? Then the voices enter, and you know it's neither. Oh, sweet surcease of sorrow! This is sung by someone who's been where you are.
Aquarian Blood in thrashier times
  • Aquarian Blood in thrashier times
Written and sung by the roving rock couple J.B. and Laurel Horrell, this is a daring downshift from the revved up, pounding squall that Aquarian Blood fans have come to love. But their voices carry a common thread with their debut record: a seriousness of purpose that never veers into pretentiousness. A lot of it comes down to their evocative lyrics, which never descend into mere wordplay. They're coming to terms with the real issues and people in their lives, and it shows. "Jesus lied to everyone, all the things he said. You would still believe him 'til you're dead," J.B. sings on the title track, "A Love That Leads to War." Around him flutter tender notes of resignation.

As with every track here, the dark observations and wry commentary are surrounded with  unassuming acoustic ostinatos, (mostly) subtle keyboard textures, and inventive bass counterpoints. Drums only appear here and there, in sparse touches, as in "No Place I Know," with hypnotic folk patterns belying lyrics of desperation, all glued together with distant marching rhythms.

Even as the kitchen-sink approach embraces drum machines or a touch of a rocking guitar solo, they're all in small measure. An anything-goes spirit prevails; the proceedings have the sound of the most quietly atmospheric home demos ever made. And indeed, that's essentially what these recordings are, having arisen when full-band drummer Bill Curry was temporarily out of commission due to a broken arm, A scaled down version of the band began playing out in February 2018, and this collection was the result.

While the imagery and settings of these songs are too subtle to reduce to simple doom-mongering, there is a dark undercurrent throughout that's undeniable. Touches of synthesizer or even (apparently) firecrackers never let your ears grow too complacent. But even in the darkest moments, that sense of hard-won epiphanies, in quiet post-recovery moments, is never absent.

"Everything he ever told you was a lie to lead you on..til the day that he was caught," they sing in "Their Dream." But, since this is neither Kansas nor Oz, and we're not Dorothy, awaking from such a nightmare can't mean it never happened. "It was more than a dream that you could just wish away," goes the chorus. It's the sound of grim – yet liberating – realizations. 

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