Courtsleet - Hope's Apparition (EP) (2014)


If the above artwork looks familiar, either from our site or others, you aren't crazy, or witnessing some kind of intellectual property theft. No, it shares an image with the recent release by Of Solitude And Solemn, titled "Starlight's Guide," and it is no coincidence. Planned as a split EP between Joe Hawker and Gavin Turner, mastermind behind Courtsleet, it has seen the light of day, digitally at least, separately. While the image may look the same, the former's part of the split dons a pink hue, whereas the latter leaves the image in a sparkling gray. Perhaps it is a growing theme for each; Hawker adding a softness to his image and music, and Turner opting for something less colorful. Formerly of A Forest Of Stars, Turner is no stranger to epic compositions of black metal and atmospheric qualities. But starting over, his Courtsleet project is quickly garnering interest from blogs and music aficionados the world over. This, too, is no mistake. With a strong presence of raw black metal, and a keen ear for background melody and morose, "Hope's Apparition" is bleak, but hopeful. And that feels pretty great.

By asking a humbling question, Turner sets his album into motion with the whine of a guitar lingering in the background, while he plucks away in the fore. "What Was I When Your Journey Began?" is a question nearly impossible to answer. But through the course of ten minutes, the sea of atmospheric tones invites you to pick away for yourself. Turner's biggest success here is the way his arranging of the layers pulls you into the center of it all, and surrounds you with distortion and airy notes all at once. Just shy of the six minute mark, all of that abstract chaos and organization comes full circle, resulting in a genuinely powerful piece of music, complete with raw angst screaming over the top. It isn't polished or tightly wound, and that is perfectly ok. Imagine how monotone and dead to the ears "Proplyd For a Lifelong Nostalgia" would be if autotune and pitch correction were utilized; it would fall on deaf ears. Instead, you get the low roar of unrestrained distortion, a constant shaking of everything around you that provides a hum every bit as important as the music itself. It keeps in line with the tenets of traditional black metal, while still injecting it with a healthy dose of ominous melody.

After hearing both side of what stacks up as a monumental split, it's easy to see why Joe Hawker and Gavin Turner would want to be contained on the same piece of manufactured plastic, or the same zipped music file. Their sounds, while pushing weight on opposite ends of the scale, share so much in common. Fundamentally, their "do it yourself" production is a key element in both sides, but it stands out in different ways. Where Hawker goes for a smoother sound, making his themes stand out prominently, Turner leaves it raw. Different approaches for different styles, both of which work. But where Turner succeeds most is in his ability to turn chaos into coherent emotion; what may sound like waves of noise and distortion, easily translates to something powerful. Would I urge Turner to avoid studio time or slick production in the future? No. But where he is with this moniker and project, a home production fits every aspect of his work. Together with Joe Hawker, or separate as a standalone EP, "Hope's Apparition" is a unique combination of black and white, without the pink tint.

8/10

Bandcamp - http://courtsleet.bandcamp.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Courtsleet