*shels - Plains Of The Purple Buffalo
(post-rock / shoegaze / atmospheric sludge metal) (2011)
In the legend of the White Buffalo Woman the Sioux people of the North American plains explain what material desire may cause you. In this myth, two brave people see a figure approaching them from a distance. The figure turns out to be a beautiful woman clad in white buckskin. One of the two recognizes the sacredness of the woman right away and warns the other not to approach her - in vain. The woman and the daredevil disappear in a white cloud and when the cloud rises into the thin air, only bones are left of the daring brave. The woman leaves the scene and makes her way to the village of these two and presents the village people with a sacred pipe. She also tells them of six other rites that will be made known to the tribe in time. Then she goes away silently, turning first into a red and brown buffalo calf, then into a white buffalo, then finally into a black buffalo.
The fourth buffalo is purple and it takes you on a mind-altering journey over the vast plains of the buffalo. *shels guides you through this quest with their latest eponymous release of Plains Of The Purple Buffalo, which redefines post-rock of today and presents the village of the world something to desire.
The melancholy trumpet blows its last pieces of air before your departure on the Journey To The Plains. The shift from ethereal calmness to distorted guitars with the vocals going down from an atmospheric wailing to a brutal growling shows promise of a well-produced and intricately crafted album. *shels was capable of these shifts already in the times of Sea Of The Dying Dhow but even the most addicted fanatic has to admit that Plains Of The Purple Buffalo leaves one numbfounded.
The repetence of instrumental compositions never gets a chance to tire you out, even in the lengthy tracks. The title track of the album has been divided into two halves of which the first, shorter one makes you want to close your eyes and float over the plains inside the white cloud, never touching the ground. The second half is a rough take on vocal post-rock and an immense success. Safa's vocals change from clean and wavering echoes into belligerent growls of despair, which keep the track alive while the trumpet and steady drum beat try to force us into a dreamy state of euphoria again. I don't think I have ever heard anything sound as distant as the trumpet in the end of the song and as close to my ears as the atmospheric vocals that crash in out of nowhere.
The buffalo of the plains has been hunted nearly into extinction. Their range used to reach from the peaks of Alaska all the way to the deserts of Mexico. The interlude-like Searching For Zihuatanejo depicts their stready loss to mankind with ambient sounds looming in the air, eventually bursting into a final struggle of distorted guitars and crashing drums. Whereas Vision Quest brings us back inside a veil of peace with Safa's soothing vocals backing up the slow distention of our minds.
An acoustic guitar and mellow vocals introduce us to Butterflies On Luci's Way and you're left staring blankly over the plains with a yearning blue in your eyes. I'm stuck in a feeling of awe during the whole length of this towering track and even when the track halts completely halfway through, I still can't make myself understand fully how great this music filling up my head is. The vocal arrangements blended with the inexorable drums slam a gigantic fist into your unconscious and prepare you for the ending half of the album where your journey over the plains blows forward as a prairie wind. Bastien's Angels and Conqueror slow down the whole album with their firm grasp near the album's end and disrupt the album's direction into complete distortion. With Spirit Horse you embark on an ethereal adventure during the last miles of your musical journey with Driessen's trumpets already calling you home. After you're awake, *shels wraps the album in a shroud of finalization with Leaving The Plains with the sun slowly descending behind your back into the faraway horizon.
Plains Of The Purple Buffalo is almost a myth in itself. The sheer excellence of this album brings tears into my eyes. A piece of art with somber melancholia, serrated distortion and simple euphoria combined. Musical perfection has been reached.