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Despite its sunny and superficial reputation, California has served as home to some of the most groundbreaking names in heavy music since the days of Slayer and Metallica -- a legacy that’s alive and well. From Xasthur’s homage to all-consuming despair to Deafheaven’s clinging to the fragility of hope, barricading yourself from the sun creates plenty of time to shed new light on shades of darkness. San Diego experimental one-manner Monochromacy takes a stance on optimism that falls somewhere in between the extremes, eliciting a fog more common farther up the West Coast.

Having birthed Monochromacy eight years ago with the self-released Triumph Wither, Esteban Flores has become attune with making improvisations feel carefully curated. Last month, Monochromacy welcomed its sixth drop Living Posture via outsider art collective, Stay Strange. The album’s production incorporates all of the key stops on the road to a compelling record. Flores achieved balance by recording in his living room, but mixing with drone master, James Plotkin (Sunn O))), ISIS, Earth). When raw emotion meets expert craftsmanship, a hypnotizing cloud formation is bound to form.

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Described by Stay Strange as “meditation music for the end times,” Living Posture piques an inner realm with which we too often lose touch during our mundane consumption of stimulus. Right off the bat with the title track, you’re taken to a place that can only be felt and seen, but never fully known outside of the context of our own imagination. The gentle fade-in includes hints of somber flutes and demonic rumblings that make you feel like you just turned on a post-apocalyptic movie that’s already exceeding expectations. Teaching a lesson in patience, Living Posture gradually beings to offer tastes of more orthodox elements of metal. “Spiritless,” for instance, starts with a tried-and-true doom metal roar that’s flavored by an unidentifiable horn-like crooning. Like a lighthouse cutting through fog, the rock and roll is present, but its beams only partially penetrate the oppression of Flores’ monochromatic wonderland.

Bands who wear the label of “noise” can be difficult to palette, but Monochromacy suggests that there is potential for accessibility. “Noise” in a general sense garners the reputation of being rough and disturbing, when really, noise, in its most uncut form, is simply referring to the presence of sound. Whether these sounds convey a cadence of abrupt threatening intrigue or calming collective clamor is up to the interpretations of both maker and listener. Transcending the desire to simply rustle jimmies by running to the extreme, the noise of Monochromacy is neither black nor white, but rather, complexly grey. Through the haze of rumbling guitars and the undertones of a solemn choir, tracks like “Living Posture” transcend the typical industrial scape invoked by scene contemporaries. From forests flaked with falling ash from the burning of our masters’ castles to tightroping the pits of hell in the ensuing chaos, different venues are tied together through smoky atmosphere.

For anyone willing to leave preconceived notions of noise at the door, Monochromacy, true to its name, provides us with the goggles to embrace the layers of grey from which we can never entirely stray.

-- Jenna Depasquale

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