To Be Gentle’s venture into an ambient, instrumental soundscape results in one of the most emotional and awe-inspiring records of 2021.
By Gavin Majeski
Originally hailing from southern California, the three-piece Eugene, Oregon stationed band led by frontwoman Eve Beeker has been producing a distinctive melodic screamo sound since 2018. With a continuously growing discography that started on the platform Bandcamp, the group’s latest sonic endeavor is a record for the ages.
Recorded mostly in a single day on January 28, 2021, “I Love You, But I Will Not Forgive You” is a solo effort done exclusively by Beeker. According to the footnotes on the album’s Bandcamp page, this latest record is a reflective piece on the world within, and the world surrounding Beeker during the pandemic.
“I Love You, But I Will Not Forgive You” is a deep excursion into Beeker’s mental health, and a declaration of her trauma and how it shaped her as a person. Where the record excels with flying colors is its ability to convey such strong emotions with virtually no lyrics.
During quarantine, Beeker has “become deeply saddened, perplexed, and frustrated by many things revolving the pandemic and circumstances that have followed from it.”
The record serves as a meditative, sonic expression of how Beeker has felt about the current state of the world and is exclusively instrumental based, unlike anything the group has produced prior (with the exception of the track “What Keeps Me Here When I Don’t Feel That I Am Enough To Stay”).
With each track title giving the listener a glimpse into the vast array of emotions Beeker has experienced, the biggest instrumental shift the band has undertaken with their newest record is a consistent post-rock feel in the vast majority of songs.
Tracks “You Have Left Us, But Shades of Blonde Still Remind Me of You Like Wisps of Love,” “If You Don’t Like What You See When You Look In the Mirror, Don’t Look / I Don’t Care,” “My Skull-Sized Universe Closes Its Eyes To You,” “Callow and Joyous / Repurposed,” “Static In My Head / Contributions To a Marred Mental Health” and “I Will Not Forgive You” consist of reverb soaked guitar work intertwined with periodic, static tones.
Combining minimal instrumentation with ambient textures is only further developed with an array of ominous cuts that are interlaced throughout the record’s 50-minute runtime. “I Was Brought To the Water By Bleak and Shimmering Light,” “And I Conceded To the Incessant Noise of Flies and Insects Swarming My Body” and “To Break the Thought Preemptively” exude a sense of dread through their use of drones, whistling winds, chiming bells and twinkling synths.
When it comes to the prime example of a perfectly executed and emotionally charged ambient track is when we reach “I Love You and I Am Sorry.” The cut feels like a blend of the early ambient work from experimental electronic artist Aphex Twin, along with the metallic drones found on Tim Hecker’s 2001 record, “Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again.” The song interweaves this hypnotic drone with sparse static, which sets a prime atmosphere for each listener to reflect on their own trials and tribulations of love and heartbreak.
As the LP progresses, we reach the most harrowing and shortest track on the record, “What Keeps Me Here When I Don’t Feel That I Am Enough To Stay,” which as previously mentioned, is the only song to feature vocals.
While these vocals are hardly what you would consider singing, the repetition of the heavily distorted and spoken word, “I love you,” over suffocated screams reminiscent of harsh noise acts such as Prurient, make for a listen that can be difficult for anyone to digest.
Considering the song’s title along with the repeated phrase “I love you,” listeners get a deeper glimpse into Beeker’s trauma and how many individuals in unhealthy relationships utilize “loving someone” as a reason to stay in said relationship.
While the sonic array of diverse sounds on “I Love You, But I Will Not Forgive You” help develop the record’s theme, the lack of crescendos on the more post-rock oriented cuts make for moments that leave the listener wanting more.
“My Skull-Sized Universe Closes Its Eyes To You” is a prime example, with its consistent guitar strumming placed over a solid second riff. The track’s buildup and slow transition into a second segment feels like a payoff that never comes to fruition.
Even with a few tracks here and there that stagnate instrumentally, the consistent pacing of each only helps the listener focus more intently on the meticulous song titles, allowing them to not only relate to the difficulties Beeker has faced during quarantine, but what we have all faced as well.
Favorite Tracks: ALL