The Grails are at the very top of their game; they define in the very best sense what the term “post-rock” means. Theirs is music of possibilities, not dead ends. – All Music Guide
Portland, OR enigmatic unit Grails started out as a bedroom-only project, but eventually members started performing live and signed to Neurot Recordings. Stylistically, their music shifts from ambient soundscapes to ancient Celtic music, much in the spirit of many 60s/70s bands (yet they also managed to retain their own personality).
Initially the band was called Laurel Canyon and included guitarists Alex J. Hall and Paul Spitz, drummer/guitarist Emil Amos (Holy Sons), violinist Timothy Horner and bassist/keyboard player William Horner. As LC, they recorded two EPs worthy of material, but the name was changed to Grails when they signed a deal with Neurot Recordings (they also replaced Spitz with Zak Riles.
Their first record for Neurot was 2003 “Burden Of Hope”, which All Music Guide compared to an old leather jacket due to its warmth. Yet, AMG pointed out that the record is anything but predictable and that “compositions” on the album “are earthy and utilitarian, perhaps even leathery like the jacket, well-worn, comfortable and workhorse-ready”. The record included a cover of Sun City Girls track “Space Prophet Dogon”.
2004 “Redlight” LP was a bit of different affair than its predecessor, according to Dusted website. It included few upbeat tracks, but the band was still exploring the effect of tension and release through their music. Dusted compared the sound of the band on “Redlight” to that of fusion Americana-inspired minimalist/avant-garde artists like Tony Conrad and Henry Flynt and heaviness of Sabbath (incidentally, Grails also recorded recorded a cover of “Black Sabbath” for “Everything Comes & Goes” tribute album).
Further down the road, the band recorded an EP of three covers of 60s bands – Space Odyssey (Byrds), Satori (Flower Travellin’ Band) and Master Builder (Gong). The band also produced a series of releases named “Black Tar Prophecies”, all of which were released on one CD by Important label in 2006 (compilation also added a couple of tracks that were missing from original releases).
AMG described the record as being focused on “ideas and execution rather than on repetition.” and “one of the most adventurous records to come out in 2006 and perhaps, when all is said and done, one of the very best.”
Next years brought a whole number of releases – 2007 “Burning Off Impurities”, 2008 “Take Refuge In Clean Living” / “Doomsdayer’s Holiday”, and, finally, in 2009, Temporary Residence label released a DVD called “Acid Rain”, which includes bands videos as well as a live footage/behind-the-scenes material.
“Impurities” was described by AMG as a “behemoth of swirling, free-floating, mysterious psychedelia” and “One of the best bets of 2007”, while “Refuge” was described by them as an exploration of “groove, space and texture” . AMG review of “Doomsdayer’s Holiday” concludes that “The Grails have once more pushed their own sonic terrain, where all that is familiar to them is woven into a gorgeously textured fabric with all that could be envisioned by them at this point in time, with the listener as the true beneficiary.”
Alex John Hall
Ben Nugent (Dolorean)
Emil Amos (Dolorean, Holy Sons, OM)
Zak Riles (Norfolk & Western)
The Burden Of Hope CD / LP / 2xLP (Neurot, 2003 / Robotic Empire, 2006)
Redlight CD / LP (Neurot, 2004 / Robotic Empire, 2006)
Interpretations Of Three Psychedelic Songs From Around The World EP CD / 12″ (Latitudes, 2005 / 2008)
As The Black Wind Withers In The Sky, We Are Graced Dimly In Our Dreams / Black Tar Prophecies Vol. I LP (Robotic Empire, 2006)
Black Tar Prophecies Vol. || 12″ (Aurora Borealis, 2006)
Black Tar Prophecies Vol’s 1, 2 & 3 CD (Important, 2006)
Burning Off Impurities CD / LP (Temporary Residence Limited 2007)
Doomsdayer’s Holiday CD / LP (Temporary Residence Limited, 2008)
Take Refuge In Clean Living CD / LP (Important, 2008)
Acid Rain DVD (Temporary Residence Limited, 2009)
“Broken Ballad” on Translation. Music. 3. (Substandard, 2003)
“High And Low” on Music With Latitude (Southern 2004)
“Reprieve” on Neurot Recordings | (Neurot, 2004)
“Black Sabbath” on Everything Comes & Goes: A Tribute To Black Sabbath (Temporary Residence Limited, 2005)
“Stray Dog” on Rhâââ Lovely Festival 2006 (Rhâââ Lovely Festival, 2006)
“Black Tar Prophecy” on Robotic Empire Sampler Vol. 4 (Robotic Empire, 2006)
“Dead Vine Blues” on Destroy Independent Music! (Temporary Residence Limited, 2007)
“Reincarnation Blues” on The Wire Tapper 20 (Wire Magazine, 2008)
“Belgian Wake-Up Drill” + “Take Refuge” on This Tape Is Supposed To Be About Love (Important, 2008)