Anybody socially conscious of the world around him/her would have been left irrevocably despondent in recent years by the state of the human race. If you are even the slightest bit aware of what’s happening around you, you will have had no trouble in feeling slightly doomed. People are killing people; people are destroying the earth; governments are inept; and banks, well most of us are still reeling in the effects of their stupidity today. The media tells us it’s getting better, but all you’d need to do is watch an Adam Curtis documentary to realise it is not, and every year just compounds the problems of the last into this insurmountable mountain of hopelessness. For Andy Fosberry this feeling “that we’re hurtling toward a painful consequence without much being done about it” became too much to bear in 2014 and he decided to express his emotions musically under the nom de plume Sunset Graves. An album, Love pours into Death was the result, and it is more than just the title that captures the artist’s frame of mind, it’s actually in the music too. A swarm of anaemic locusts greet us during the opening seconds of the first track, Mass of Apathy, before falling into an operatic vocal clashing dissonantly with the sweet harmonic foundation of the track. Delay soaked chords with the resonances taking the form of airy white noise do little to quell the opposing forces on the track, struggling to bring them together coherently, the apathy between the parts very tangible. It sets a tone for an album that wades in despondency and uses contrasts to great affect to bring its message across, the disenfranchised view from an artist’s perspective.
Fosberry manages to deliver the message on Love pours into Death through minimalists arrangements that sees the focus fall on a mere handful of parts, but executed in a way that still gets the most out of them when they are present. It doesn’t disappear in the background like some distant voice through a television screen reporting on the atrocities of humanity, but rather makes an immediate formidable impression while it is accounted for. Ruined frame’s dub-infused bass sticks around your ears like mud, unavoidably thick around the low-mids, while the percussive parts dictate the points in which noise should dominate silence. One can’t help but visualise the artist’s discontent at this point as a detuned pad swirls around the outer surfaces of the track. It’s through these dissonant elements contrived into a single composition that Sunset Graves manages to relay his dissatisfaction with the world musically, and he really drives the message home in titles like The end in People. Here he references dance music, as he keeps doing incrementally throughout, but twists the house arrangement that lays the foundation of the track into an ugly mutation being dragged down by the lethargic drone of pad that fails to find a central pitch in relation to the up-beat harmonic movement in the figure bass. Those deep chords and short little upbeat sequences can’t shake the cacophonous drone hovering over the track, clouding everything in a sombre pessimism.
Love pours into Death is not immune to restoring a balance however and at times a sense of expectant optimism creeps in. We get our first taste of it in the beautiful texture of the pads on El paso as synthesised strings drift around in the stereo field in what could only be described as a visceral extemporisation. And although this optimism is always there, bubbling beneath the surface, it’s rarely able to install itself as the dominating force. Most of the time it is unable to break through the barrier of discontent and when it eventually does it is as one track describes, ephemeral, a fleeting moment when the artist drops his guard. Ephemeral does it’s uttermost to keep the message upbeat through the last third of the album, but can only hold on for mere moments before the harmonic movement gets pulled into a new key, moving from major sevenths in to minor chords, love inevitably can’t escape death as it appears and with that song the last bit of love evaporates from the album as Whose gonna watch you die and Sweet release mark the predestined end of Love pours into Death.
It’s a stark and unnerving view from Sunset Graves about the future of humanity. The listener is continuously made aware of some mal-intent through the dissonances that swathe each track, unsettling any content in the process. If any optimism finds its way through to the surface, it is almost immediately squashed by another disharmonious subversion. As a result the music only has a transitory effect. There is no familiarity in the music, nothing to make a lasting expression, and when Love pours into Death is no more than the last few resonances fading out, there’s nothing left to hang on to. And with an album that is so socially aware, I personally feel it should dwell in my consciousness for some time after, always at the back of my mind until the needle hits the first groove of Mass of Apathy again. That’s not the case however and Love pours into Death is only effective when it exists in the vacuum of the present. But when it is present it is incredibly hard to ignore. Perhaps we should just leave it on to repeat indefinitely, but dwelling on the ‘painful consequences’ that await us is just a bit too much to bear for this writer.