One of the privileges of presenting radio is the access to promo/pre-release music. The sheer volume presented by major labels, independents and direct from bands means that, due to time, some fall by the wayside. Sometimes, you take a punt on a band you've never heard of. The decision to take a listen to Horseback's 2010 masterpiece The Invisible Mountain was one of the best I've ever made.
Mixing noise, ambience, folk, krautrock, psychedelica, Americana/folk music and black metal made Horseback truly stand out. I quickly devoured all their releases and found that main-man Jenks Miller also indulges his more 'Americana/folk' influences in his other outfit, Mount Moriah, as well as his solo output with Rose Cross NC.
Further albums under the Horseback moniker saw the band evolve, twisting and turning to incorporate not only Miller's Americana sound, but also snatches of electronica. 2013's mammoth three-CD, two-track collection of demos, splits and singles A Plague Of Knowing was seemingly a way for Miller to say "...thanks for supporting me this far; here's a gift and now we're moving on from this sound".
Dead Ringers is the ultimate Horseback album for 2016. It encompasses all of the different sounds and styles that Miller has played over the years and strips it all down into bizarre Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) style 'pocket symphonies'. Miller, to use a terrible cliche, really is using the studio as another instrument: loops of guitar noise, feedback and occasional electronic drums integrate with snatches of decaying drones and Miller's eerie low vocals.
Although Miller had some clean vocals on 2014's wonderfully skronky and bluesy Piedmont Apocrypha, this is the first album using this style exclusively. Miller's low voice sitting somewhere between Al Cisneros (Om/Sleep) and David Tibet.
Horseback haven't gone soft though; this album is incredibly dark and heavy, just in a different way. In Another Time, In and Out of Form even harks back to the older sound. Much like Ulver, Horseback are constantly moving forward. Hell, their next release could be entirely electronic, vocal acapella or death metal: Miller and crew would make it work.
I've read several reviews that describe this album in many different terms. Stark, post-punk, drone and even minimalistic. These are all true. But, to these ears, the sound is very cinematic. If Blade Runner was more of a old Western style movie, Dead Ringers would be the ideal soundtrack. Dark, heavy, unique and cool.
Scott Bishop is a regular host on RTR FM 92.1's Critical Mass, which airs every Wednesday from 9PM (GMT+8) in Perth, Australia.