It should be puzzling that Vacuity’s most recent release, At the
Command of the Blanket Sky, is such a grim endeavour. As those of us
who know the gentlemen can attest, it is hard to imagine four more
congenial people. And yet, Vacuity have sculpted an unrelenting
portrait of a world populated by opportunists and drones, a world
in which we are all part of both potential solutions and tangible
problems. It’s the sound of civilization being crushed by its own
And yet, somehow, one comes away elated. I don’t know why this is,
but I can hazard some guesses.
Emeri, Greg, Paul, and Rob have been friends since their school days.
This is an important signpost for understanding Vacuity: these are not
musical dilettantes who boast about being in a band in order to get laid
on weekends, while practicing twice a month for appearances. These are
genuine musicians and songwriters, who have spent years honing an empathy
with one another. They take their work seriously, and it shows.
The group’s first record, The Middle Ground (2004), and the subsequent EP, Come On
Get Real (2006), are intriguing, but with Blanket Sky, the triple-tiered advances of
the band – lyrical, musical, instrumental – are evident.
The average song length on the new album is around five minutes, but there’s no
noodling or treading water. “Wind Waves & Sea”, for example, is less a song and
more a living thing, utilizing its seven minutes to subtly evolve from anguish and
recrimination into a sort of “resigned hopefulness”. “Beckoning”, an ambling trip
around the edges of the throbbing black hole of prevailing social and cultural forces,
is both a compelling song and a discomfiting universal indictment. And the sheer
audaciousness of closing such a forceful album with the funeral pyre minimalism of
“The Effect is Night” (to which this writer was initially opposed, for shameful
commercial reasons) is striking and appropriate.
Watching the gradual, subtle evolution of Vacuity over the past three years has
been a fascinating experience. I impatiently await their next venture.