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British Sea Power: Valhalla Dancehall (Rough Trade) 

On its fourth proper album, the British rock band has moved beyond its influences—Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen, Interpol—into an arena of its own, melding thick atmospherics with the post-punk sound for which it has become known. The new direction probably was catalyzed by the moody, mostly instrumental soundtrack the band created in 2009 for the DVD release of the 1934 film classic Man of Aran.

This album was recorded in South East England and on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, which makes sense, considering its cold soundscapes and rural sense of desolation. This effect is laden over tunes such as "Who's in Control," "Living Is So Easy" and "Cleaning Out the Rooms," resulting in the grand drama of Pulp or even David Bowie. That doesn't mean British Sea Power can't race through a 106-second punk blast such as "Thin Black Sail," though.

Since its 2003 debut, The Decline of British Sea Power, the group has regularly traded in thick drifts of piled-up guitar feedback, but that approach reaches its apotheosis in the 11-minute "Once More Now," in which British Sea Power pushes its hypnotic noise quotient into a realm in which the ghosts of the Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine, Sigur Rós and Godspeed You! Black Emperor mingle. The song is a billowing, glowing mass of sound, and it slays me every time, in part because of singer Yan Scott Wilkinson's heartache: "I'm not a lonely man, I'm looking for my friend / Won't you take my hand if your heart is unbroken."

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