The Book Of Knots – Garden of Fainting Stars

Categories: Reviews
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Published on: August 20, 2011

Garden of Fainting Stars is the third album in a trilogy by experimental rock band Book of Knots, preceded by Book of Knots (2004) and Traineater (2007). It’s hard to confine this band to a genre beyond the vague category of “experimental,” as their music is something organic, eclectic and disturbingly alive. They do remind me of Unexpect and Pin Up Went Down, but Book Of Knots have a sound and structure entirely their own.

And it is a curling, coiling structure, a beast of muscular, tentacular strength unfurling itself. The music evolves like a living creature, dragging itself forward, first stretching out delicate feelers and then following it with the immense heaviness of the rest of its monstrous bulk. Garden of Fainting Stars is an electronic kraken of an album full of tangles and tentacles — some dangling, some tickling and some grasping and smothering with monstrous strength.

Much of the strangeness and beauty of Garden of Fainting Stars come from juxtaposition, settling noises in opposition, like a glockenspiel against rock drumming. Each song is an independent entity, distinct and fully formed, but the album as a whole is characterized by dominant strings. The violin, bass and guitar are used to great psychological effect, designed to unsettle.

Book of Knots have assembled an extraordinary list of guest performers, including Tom Waits and Ipecac founder Mike Patton. The track featuring Patton’s smooth, unmistakable croon, “Planemo,” has a particularly buttery, rich tone that evokes red wine, tobacco and well-oiled leather. Garden of Fainting Stars has a distinctly modern sound, in a historical sense. “Drosphila Melanogaster” has a cold-war sensibility, an Eastern European bleakness to the strings and voiceover that’s immediately contrasted by the hot, throbbing, broken American rock feel of “Moondust Must.” Each track maintains a distinct sound and socio-cultural identity, but still fit together somehow, making each stranger by proximity.

Part cultural laboratory and part auditory mosaic, Garden of Fainting is still at its core a sea monster, especially on final track “Obituary for the Future.” Book of Knots have created a listening experience like a vessel being torn apart: barque rendered, mast snapped, sails shredded — a ship in the grip a leviathan.

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