Guitars ooze out in sweltering mirage haze. A sub-bass hum lingers like an ominous echo of the pre-apocalypse. The Sunset Limited manages to carry a very vivid atmosphere with a deceptively simple set-up – only a mere handful of textures are used to create the album’s barren visuals, with drones drifting into the far corners of a detailed and endless expanse, reverberating before becoming choked out in the emptiness.
It’s the electric guitar that takes a central role, with the sound manipulated just enough to tease its trademark attack and timbre into lonesome distortion waves. The tones Andrew Moon achieves throughout The Sunset Limited are always gorgeous and expertly crafted, but it’s on “The Cult” that the instrument is most beautifully utilised, with a simple call and response between feedback and rumbling riff forming the basis of its six minute duration.
Another notable highlight is the closing “Phantoms” – perhaps that’s partially because it’s the track that’s left to ring round your head as the album falls into silence. Just like the rest of the pieces on The Sunset Limited, a deep bass drone anchors everything. Distorted leads are left to fade in and out, creeping and weaving within the mist and carrying the listener through a broken and desolate place.
It’s not a terribly dynamic album – I guess this is understandable for a work conveying a dormant and inactive landscape, but perhaps The Sunset Limited could benefit from expanding within its theme at points by stooping further into sparseness or ascending into a ghostly climax. As it is, the album is occasionally frustratingly static, squandering its potential explore certain areas and develop them.
It depends. Perhaps the aim of the record is to depict a landscape doomed to neglect and desertion for the rest of eternity, where the only glimpse of movement arrive in the flicker and rattle of objects in the bleak winds, or in the giddy dancing of the dust on the empty streets. In which case, the frustration can be excused as a crucial part of the experience – the listener has to accept that the environment conveyed through The Sunset Limited is forever haunted by an eerie, bleak stasis. A most enjoyable album either way.