When I last reviewed Understated Theory, I noted that their 2015 EP, Critical Drift, left me looking forward to more. More arrived a few months later in the form of their full length release, Juxtapparition, and it turns our my anticipation was rewarded. Colin Crighton and Tom Moore pick up where they left off, carving out stories in a fog-shrouded blend of half-dreaming ambient and mutated post-rock. The places we are shown are strange, glimpsed through a constant roll of smoke, indistinct in form but distinct in feeling. Ghostly voices meet backward echoes meet strong guitar lines meet fluttering snippets of found sound. And it all gels together into a cohesive whole. The album is at its most vaporous at the outset. “Where Chaos Sleeps” is a pure primer on the Understated Theory sound, a tiered blend of elements that curls and shifts like oil on water. Tremolo guitar notes and a bass drum thump nudge their way to the surface. “White Fields” grabs some reverse echo and random, clanking sounds as it lurches up into a sonic wall of processed guitar. With “Look Right Through You,” we get the first appearance of a distinct melodic approach. It emerges out of another dreamy wash of fog and stays only briefly, a hint of clearer post-rock expression in the midst of more ambient, experimental work. “Mirrors” builds from a low hiss accented with a vocal hum to a churn of distorted guitar. On “Sepia,” dirty slide guitar straight off a ramshackle front porch in the Delta plays beneath field recordings and a rising drone. The slide reappears on the closer, “See the Sun Within,” accompanying slurring vocals in perfect woozy harmony. It’s like looking at the scene through the wavering air of a humid day.
Now that Understated Theory have allowed themselves an album’s length in which to express themselves, it’s clear they have much to say. Granted, they stick somewhat to the template of ideas lifting out of a drone- and wash-laced backdrop, but especially in close listens, they’re distinct. Juxtapparition again has me ready for more Understated Theory.
Available at Sparkwood Records.