On Record: Under the Shadow of This Red Rock, by Modality


Modality, which started with Jay Bruns and former local Clark Grant making refreshingly not-quite-rock, not-quite-pop kosmische music, now seems to exist on some spacious new kind of plane. "Rarefied Airwaves," the first track off its new album, Under the Shadow of this Red Rock, sounds like the analog synthesizing of both Kraftwerk and Florian Fricke's Popul Vuh, which provided soundtrack music for Werner Herzog movies, among other things. The band's members live in Missoula, Butte and Blacksburg, Virginia, and Under the Shadow has the distinction of being the first double LP ever released from any of those places. Which also makes it the best. I do find myself gravitating toward the record's more organized stuff versus the long-form space jams, but the recording quality is solid and the record's cohesion between more structured songs and improvised material speaks to the strength of the band's vision.

When the old Missoula free-rock band Poor School played a reunion show last summer, I talked to Modality's Ben Weiss about the summer tour they'd just gotten back from. Among other wild venues, the band had played Cube Fest, at Virginia Tech, where band member Charles Nichols teaches. The venue's website describes its mission as celebrating "the cutting edge of multichannel music, spatial sound, and audio technology..." I think that perfectly captures Modality's strange style and speaks to the forward-thinking risks the band is taking.

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