Great music doesn’t have to come from a big city like New York or Tokyo or London or Los Angeles or Berlin. It can come from the smaller places. New Orleans isn’t that small, but it’s quite a bit smaller than 10 million people.
In some ways, it can be objectively easier in the smaller city. The rent isn’t as high. It’s less crowded and you typically have more space to yourself. Everything feels like it’s moving a little slower. You might even have a house where no one except maybe your roommates can hear you and your stupid, lame ass band rehearsing.
In the smaller city, you have a leg up. That’s not to say the big cities don’t have their advantages, but they take it on the chin in a few ways.
Belong came from New Orleans. Whatever they did there, they did it right. They’re not a stupid, lame ass band. Not by a long shot.
Belong is a band that comes up in conversation with music aficionadi. The band comes up in a number of different ways, like when someone brings up My Bloody Valentine or shoegaze in general. Belong is one of those back-pocket artists that trumps everything else in their category.
October Language was collectively mastered by Belong member Turk Dietrich and Telefon Tel Aviv member Joshua Eustis. These two would later go on to form the group Second Woman, an incredible duo in their own right, and fairly different from Belong, having more in common with a duo like Autechre.
In a way, their discography is sort of like a block of marble that gets more and more chiseled the further along you get through the releases.
October Language is the first full-length: no real chiseling took place yet. There’s no way to tell what the eventual sculpture will be.
Colorloss Record chisels away some: vocals appear, albeit veiled by reverb and time, and not a single word understood.
Eventually, Common Era is a body chiseled from the original block of marble. Drums arrive and the vocals are slightly more intelligible – a fuller, band-like sound is revealed.
But back to October Language. Anyone familiar with the likes of Fennesz will instantly fall in love with this record. It’s an electric fence of sound, but seemingly done without many synths or electronics or hyper-editing. There are some electronics, but a good deal of the sound seems to be layered guitars awash with reverb.
“Red Velvet or Nothing” arcs with voltage, abundant and overflowing.
Occasional spots in the music show wear and tear; songs struggle to enter, displaying bruises and lesions in the form of glitchy distortion and tape wobble. In the same way, some songs exit with a turbulence.
The music moves along through each piece’s respective chord progression. No melodies or foreground notes that stray from the chords themselves. A beautiful hymn without a language.
The amount the record actually does, like other Belong records, is fairly confined, distilled to an absolute pureness.
Where distortion can typically make music gritty and harsh, it is somehow meditative here. Still blistering, still completely on fire, but haunting and mesmerizing like a great bonfire that pulls the eyes in.
Even though the various elements on the record are easily numbered, their range is immense. Synths and guitars are incredibly soft and pillowy in some places, only to later grow into harmonic buzz saws reverberating away in a cathedral-like presence.
Though probably unintentional, there is a worship-like reverence to October Language. Where other ambient music strays or attempts to capture many emotions in takes, October Language’s purpose is specific and powerful.
What is it about ambient music, a music with no words and often no shared narrative, that speaks to us?
October Language was reissued by Spectrum Spools earlier this year.