Thisquietarmy - Unconquered: 2008 – 2018 10th Anniversary Edition [Midira Records - 2018]Thisquietarmy is an experimental improvisational guitar-based drone project hailing from Montreal, Canada. It is the solo project of Eric Quach, guitarist with Canadian shoegaze heroes Destroyalldreamers. Originally released by Foreshadow Recordings in 2008 Unconquered was the project’s first full length release. This new tenth anniversary edition from Midira Records adds an extra disc of material, most of it live, however it also features the thirty-minute epic Into Dust/Out of Dust which is inspired by Californian dream pop legends Mazzy Star.
Unconquered is the album that introduced Thisquietarmy to the world at large and this new, expanded and remastered package is a real treat for fans and new converts alike. At comfortably over two hours in length it also represents great value for money. Anyway, let’s dig into the music starting with the original album.
Disc One covers the material that featured on the album’s original release, but is augmented by the track Dronewars, which was originally added for the 2011 vinyl release on Denovali Records. The opening track ‘Immobilization’ sets a marker in the sand for the rest of the album. This veers sharply from monolithic drone to ambient atmospherics and gives us a hint of the diversity to follow. The track features a guest appearance from multi-instrumentalist, writer and poet Aidan Baker and works as an effective opener. ‘Battlefield Arkestrah’ is another largely ambient drone piece that adds some lovely clean guitar work before heading off in it’s final few moments into almost spacerock territory. ‘Warchitects’ is a noisier and more up tempo track that hints at a different side to Quech’s work. The influence of classic industrial/shoegaze and spacerock bands are evident throughout the track. ‘The Sun Destroyers’ takes us briefly back into ambient territory before once again exploding into life in the song’s second half, coming on more like Quach’s other band Destoyalldreamers. ‘Death of A Sailor’ has a slightly off kilter feel to it that reminds me a little of Spiritualized at their best, and is one of my personal favourites on the album. ‘The Great Escapist’ is lovely slice of ambient shoegaze and represents the only track to feature the ethereal voice of Meryem Yildiz. ‘Mercenary Flags’ has some pretty guitar lines floating over the first half of this dream like track. Like the rest of the album it has a hypnotic quality that hooks you in and keeps you listening. ‘Empire’ is up next and has a 1980s indie/shoegaze vibe to it, before dropping down into ambient territory once more around its midpoint. The final track, Dronewars - the bonus track if you like – is among my favourites here. A glacially moving 15-minute-long slab of ambient space rock that sounds like Hawkwind at their most esoteric. Lovely stuff indeed and the perfect end to disc one.
The main interest on disc two is the opener ‘Into Dust/Out of Dust’, a thirty minute epic inspired by the Mazzy Star track Into Dust. Epic in nature, the track builds and falls across it’s epic length. This ambitious piece never outstays its welcome and makes a great demonstration track for the band’s overall sound, mixing ambient drone, shoegaze and spacerock most effectively. It takes the listener through a variety of different emotions and proves to be worthy of the name attached to it. Nice live recordings of ‘Mercenary Flags’, ‘Empire’, ‘Battlefield Arkestrah’ and ‘Warchitects’ follow before the final track, a roughly recorded live version of ‘The Great Escapist’ with Neryem Yildiz brings things to a close.
Overall, the album has a cold, stark quality to it, perhaps Quach draws influence from the cold wintery landscapes of Northern Canada rather than the warmer prairie lands farther to the south. This starkness is not a criticism it works beautifully and is especially fitting with music with an ambient basis. The album is a worthy addition to any collection for those interested in ambient drone, shoegaze or spacerock as fans of all three genres will find plenty to enjoy here. The remastering of the original album sounds crisp and clean and you can pick up the many subtleties of the music within. The additional material is interesting to hear and the live tracks are very well recorded, with the exclusion of the live version of ‘The Great Escapist’ which is a rough recording but actually benefits from its lo-fi recording. A great album, and an excellent package that is very much worth upgrading to if you already have the earlier release, and very much worth checking out if you are new to the band.Darren Charles