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Wrekmeister Harmonies’ music is as expansive as it is deeply personal. Comprised of a revolving cast of musicians around enigmatic constants JR Robinson and Esther Shaw, collaboration has always been a cornerstone of the group’s creative process. While early albums were written for large ensembles and to be performed in grandiose public spaces, more recent recordings peeled back the layers of orchestral bombast to focus in on the raw emotion at their heart of their compositions. We Love to Look at the Carnage, the group’s latest outing represents some of their most subtle and powerful work to date. The album sees the core duo of guitarist/vocalist Robinson and multi-instrumentalist Shaw augmented with longtime friend and collaborator Thor Harris (Swans) on percussion and for the first time Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) on electronics, introducing surprising new sonics into Wrekmeister Harmonies’ minimalist arrangements without sacrificing their intense intimacy.
We Love to Look at the Carnage charts a restless journey beginning in the middle of the night and ending in the small hours of the morning. Robinson’s brooding lyrics grapple with phantoms both real and imagined, apparitions amplified by the feverish anxiety of insomnia. Shaw’s ethereal vocals dueling with Robinson’s baritone create essential tension. Her stellar keyboard and violin work are on full display, driving much of the stripped-down album forward through emotional lines of melody.
In keeping with the album’s stark lyrical content, much of We Love to Look at the Carnage was written in relative isolation. During the deep freeze of the New York winter, the duo decamped from their home in Brooklyn to a cabin in Woodstock. Harris and Stewart were then sent the tracks to contribute additional layers however they were moved to, which were then mixed and edited with producer Martin Bisi at his BC Studios. Like much of Wrekmeister’s music over the years, Carnage draws heavily from literature. Influenced by Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, they find strength in stoicism. Robinson explains: “Stoicism is often misunderstood as being cold and indifferent toward difficult situations but it’s actually more appropriately described as hanging a more positive frame on the circumstances through the practice of negative visualization, that things could always be worse”.
We Love to Look at the Carnage traverses an emotional landscape, through a metaphorical night with moments of calm between the dark storms, each piece guiding us towards dawn and its promise. It is a celebration of the beauty of endurance, the hope in stoically moving against the dark forces that invade our thoughts and lives.