Review: Bulk Carrier – Federal (Blood Ties, Jul 6)

Following just months behind the churning wake of CSL Welland, the project’s superb inaugural recording, Bulk Carrier’s first full-length is already a definitive artistic statement in both aesthetic and sonic terms. Those captivated by the debut tape’s minimal, low-fidelity, not-quite-static evocations of rusting hull plates and buried combustions will find no shortage of square footage to enjoy on Federal, a double C20 with each side titled for a nationalized carrier—Fraser and Yukina (Marshall Islands) and Columbia and Sakura (Liberia). All four tracks draw from cavernous commercial-maritime innards, and perhaps as well the depths of the body of water being trundled over, filtering the raw, gargantuan atmosphere through a choice rig of analog electronics to drum up hypnotic stretches of creak, groan, and rumble. But what’s most exciting about these walls is that while they are monotonous, lumbering, massive, they are anything but stagnant, expanding on the subtle progressions of CSL Welland into new variations and detours that enhance the core textures: recurrent crescendo/drops like miniature engine-boosts halting the turgid torrent of “Fraser”; power lulls and exhaust-vent flushes breaking up the visceral crunch of “Yukina”; barely perceptible undercurrents lurking throughout “Columbia.” All of it, it turns out, leads to “Sakura,” which is just so enormous that I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone who hasn’t yet heard it. But by now anyone reading should know that Federal offers the best and bulkiest of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the comfort of your own home, forty unforgettable minutes of feeling like the room is being borne down upon and flattened by hundreds of thousands of tons of steel. A no-brainer.

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