SQÜRL have spent the last decade functioning between the lines in elusive ways.
Formed by Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan at the back end of ’00s, their collaboration began with the score to Jarmusch’s film, The Limits of Control, which was spearheaded by alternative drone metal titans of the era, Boris and Earth.
Over the past 10 years, the pair have unfurled a number of EPs and film scores, which have always felt like a precursor to something bigger. Finally, that something bigger arrives in the way of with their debut long-player, Silver Haze.
Producer, Randall Dunn (Marissa Nadler, Sunn O))), Six Organs of Admittance, Steve Von Till et al), provides the sonic anchor to Silver Haze. Dunn’s work over the years has been among the finest in the alternative metal and folk pantheon, capturing an intensity from behind the studio glass that is undoubtedly unique. It’s a perfect match for this journey, filled with slow build-ups and hazy, luscious textures that rival the atmosphere of Jarmusch’s work on the big screen.
With a title like Berlin ’87, you kind of know what you’re in for, as Jarmusch and Logan wear their influences on their sleeve in this cascading, hazy drone rock instrumental that opens the curtains to a murky world of uncertainty and mild panic via a smattering of strings and wispy static.
Through thick curls of smoke and spacious percussion, the spoken-word The End of the World matches the drama of its title, combining The Last of Us’ dystopian dread with the futuristic imagery of a Philip K. Dick novel, as the story is seen through the lens of a 70 year old seeing the horrors of a new reality unfolding before their eyes (teenagers running wild in the streets amid euro-designed crypto cars passing by).
From here, SQÜRL take us around the houses of a musical history of the last thirty years. The cinematic lustre and saccharine post-rock of Garden of Glass Flowers and the drug rock-inspired She Don’t Wanna Talk About It – the latter featuring Anika, who lyrical barbs with Jarmusch by slamming the door on past grievances (“Some things are better left off than said / at least that’s what she said”).
Ill Seserto Ross takes its cues from cavernous desert drone Earth have mastered over the past decade, which bleeds into the droning dream-rock of John Ashbery Takes a Walk. Featuring Charlotte Gainsborg, her vocals operate between the margins of the present and the future, creating the kind of vibe that one would associate with a scene from Her.
The Morricone-tinged Queen Elizabeth sees Jarmusch adopt interesting juxtapositions, going against the grain and status quo (“I’ve got all these complicated feelings and I don’t what to do / I’ve got all these abstract feeling/ And they’re all because of you”).
The abstract nature drips into the wonderful closing title track. A sweeping array of sound that will go down as one of the finest closing numbers of 2023. An effortless, charming encounter, evoking the imagery of corn husks swaying in the breeze.
Here Jarmusch and Logan crystallise the art of simplicity, and in many ways this final juncture takes Silver Haze to its logical conclusion. An album that is unapologetic yet assured, through extracting maximum results from minimalism and space, Silver Haze is an out and out vibe record that showcases the best elements of shoegaze and drone rock, creating the sort atmospheric psychedelia that stays etched to your mind.
Silver Haze is out now via Sacred Bones. Purchase from Bandcamp.