First things first: this band is so much more than a side-project’s side-project. Marriages contains three-fifths of Los Angeles-based post-rock outfit Red Sparowes, which in itself is made up of current and former members of Isis, Halifax Pier, Angel Hair, Pleasure Forever and The Nocturnes. While the wait for a new album from Red Sparowes themselves threatens to become as long as their song titles tended to be in days gone by (something they largely dispensed with for 2010’s The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer), Marriages are helping to tide impatient fans over with a release that is just short of 26 minutes long but can definitely be classed as an album.
Kitsune is certainly cohesive; it plays from start to finish as one long song which could be said to be divided into six movements. In some ways, it is quite different to what has gone before, featuring prominent use of vocals, as well as slightly more conventional song structures. The vocals are mainly provided by Emma Ruth Rundle, whose voice perfectly complements the music that surrounds it; it never does anything more than it needs to, but has a strong presence throughout. It’s low in the mix, so is sometimes completely drowned out, but there are times when it is extremely effective, as on Ten Tiny Fingers, a song on which everything – muscular drumming, powerful bass, searing guitar and those wispy vocals – combines to show the true scope of the trio’s ambition.
The intensity of their sound doesn’t take too long to establish itself; within 30 seconds, as the opener Ride In My Place roars into life, claustrophobia sets in. This is music that is both expansive and terrifyingly intimate; music that has so much going on that one forgets it was made by just three people, but layered enough to suggest many more are involved. At times, it isn’t a world away from the bleak and beautiful hybrid of post-rock and post-metal that Red Sparowes have become known for (without Rundle’s vocals, Body Of Shade could easily pass for one of their songs), but then again, neither she, Greg Burns nor Greg Clifford formed this band so they could write songs just like their other stuff. The new material is often heavier than the fruit of their earlier incarnations, too: the crushing riff that White Shape is centred around has an instant impact, its arrival seemingly pushing Kitsune to breaking point, hanging around for a brief period before everything starts to fall away under an onslaught of noise.
The album can be quite a handful at times, but if in search for a post-rock record that makes so much of an impression in so little time, one need not look any further than this. Closing track Part The Dark Again favours the tried-and-true post-rock song structure, gradually building to an ear-splittingly loud finale over seven minutes, but it makes sure to throw in a few curveballs along the way; Marriages aren’t fond of a straightforward approach to anything. These songs are immediate and flow into each other seamlessly, making 26 minutes seem like half that time. All this results in Kitsune being a thrilling listen which you’ll want to go back to again and again. It’s very easy to get lost in Marriages’ world; it’s surely no accident that the album was named after a Japanese mythical creature, because it’s appropriately magical.