❉ This is the most exhilarating of the works A Year In The Country have yet released.
Long term We Are Cult readers might remember the various A Year In The Country projects that collated Englands of ‘far away’s and ‘long ago’s, but this entry brings listeners on a more contemporary journey to aural self-fulfillment. Conceptualists to the end, the songwriters develop a narrative that speaks of interwoven geographies and technologies, positioning them with an aesthete that’s entirely in keeping with the recondite route this series has embarked on. The result may be A Year In The Country‘s crowning masterpiece, and it’s certainly the most exhilarating of the works they have yet released.
The Layering-as the record is so aptly named- plasters listeners with the varying sound collages that surround each and every listener on their collective journey through self-isolation. The production echoes loneliness, liveliness, ecstasy and despair. Channeling the ocean that pivots around us, the album washes through listeners with polished, pious punch, floating with the glaciers that once brought the world to an inexplicable halt. Rich in tapestry, the album chronicles the industries that once roamed so freely across Europe’s great lands. And much like the waters that carry us, the tides change from tuneful to thunderous in seconds.
Deeply cognisant how important their contributions count to the dazzling whole, artists The Heartwood Institute, Grey Frequency, Folclore Impressionista and Listening Center each deliver their stately contributions with contemplative poise. Just as the world around us has shifted from the compulsive to the collective, this album imbues itself in a magnificent (nay, Marxist), soundscape of noise. And so they should, considering the dense back catalogue A Year In The Country enjoy.
The album opens on the sprawling Cross Sections of Time, creating the shallow waters each artist must wade. What follows is an expansive selection, veering from the liturgical (Beneath The City Streets) to the fiery (Layers of Belief), before making brief sojourns into jauntier, jollier territories (A Heart Shaped Forest, and the excellent Gilmerton Cove). Synth soundscape artists Widow’s Weeds emerge from the shadows to plunge listeners from the well of electricity, into the darkly lit hole of despondency. It’s a deeply cinematic sounding album, as every track plunges into the world that has created such beauty and evil at an impossibly prolific rate.
Apropos to form, the work – expansive as it is – offers buyers the chance to enjoy the music with a beautifully designed package. Laced in black and white decoration, the portraits conjure up a clear, crisp impasto, each pastel even sharper than the image that went before it. With every layer of detail, the architects bring a tangible element to the intangible work, shifting out tones from the metaphysical to the more conventionally physical.
Destined to be a fan favourite, The Layering rewards those who have waited through the protracted pandemic with a work that could only be labelled as classic. And what with the cruelest season awaiting listeners so pruriently, this is a classic that will be enjoyed during the wet Winter evenings. One of the most astonishing works 2020 has offered us.
❉ Eoghan Lyng is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. His writing has also appeared in Record Collector, CultureSonar, Punk Noir Magazine, DMovies, Phacemag and other titles. Follow him on Twitter. Visit his homepage.