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Hotel Hotel: The Sad Sea The Sad Sea
CD 2008 | Silber 064
8 tracks, 44 minutes
$12 ($18 international, $5 download (256 kbps, ~81 megs))
Hotel Hotel's long awaited second album! Violins & guitars post-rocking & droning!
track listing: from harbour, the dirac sea (low tide), mary celeste, equator in the meantime (black sabbath), the shoreline disappeared, the dirac sea (high tide), the captain goes down with the ship (sinking), the captain goes down with the ship (drowning)
: Press release
After Northern Valentine's stunning debut, I was expecting a fair amount from Hotel Hotel's The Sad Sea, another offering from prolific drone imprint Silber Records. What do you know? They delivered.
This expansive yet personal record is a thoroughly engaging work of atmospheric post-rock. Skilfully treading the line between gradual, droning moodpieces and more fleshed out Explosions in the Sky-esque instrumental rock, The Sad Sea makes for a distinctly enveloping listen. Custom made for dazey late-night listening under dim lights (or no light at all), these eight tracks flow into one another smoothly, seemingly telling a story along the way. Indeed, the track titles themselves outline the fable, although I find it more rewarding to conjure up my own images to match the sounds.
I will remark that, at times, The Sad Sea does risk losing its audience's attention. Perhaps occasionally, Hotel Hotel's vast musical excursions may be better suited to background mood-setting as opposed to consuming one's full attention. However, this criticism could be applied to many such atmospheric records, and it isn't necessarily a bad thing. Like Explosions in the Sky or Stars of the Lid, Hotel Hotel has mastered the art of building a beautiful record out of slow-moving, unassuming compositions.
Sidenote: Full credit to Silber Records for the impeccable design on this release.
~ Matt Shimmer, indieville

I don't know if post-rock is or ever was actually a movement or just the natural outgrowth of musical history, and I certainly am not interested in its validity as a genre label; it's a useful tag to throw on a number of bands from around the world that, while they don't actually sound alike, have a certain sensibility in common, so I'll use it out of pure practicality.  You've got Godspeed You Black Emperor and related bands in Canada, Mono in Japan, Mogwai in Scotland, Wang Wen in China, and so on -- if there's a post-rock band in India I'd love to hear them.  The Texas band Hotel Hotel are a solid entry into the fray, and their particular take on it includes the simple fact of their instrumentation: two guitars (or guitar and bass), two violins, and drums.  On this, their third release, they are joined by a number of guests of added guitars, keyboards, drums, and viola.  The added players don't change the bands general sound, however, which frequently takes spacey guitar drones and adds hypnotic violin motifs building from silence to climax over a long slow course.  It's one of those cases where simplicity is used to great effect, for while the individual parts are not complex, they are combined in ways that work wonders.  For a taste of their sound, Silber Media has a free live EP available for download, and if you like that, this studio work is even better.
~ Jon Davis, Expose

This CD from 2008 offers 44 minutes of moody ambience.
Hotel Hotel is P.D. Wilder and Patrick Patterson, with an assortment of guests on violins and guitars.
Clouds of violins and guitars are heavily processed to achieve a moody ambience.
After being subjected to extreme treatments, these layers of strings generate a haunting disposition, one wrought with a distinctly intentional edginess. The drones drift and billow with a lassitude that evokes a downbeat despondency, suitably capturing the feeling of being lost at sea. The sounds grind against each other, not in contention but allied to escalate an ambient mien into a searing intensity as the harmonics attain a teeth-rattling pitch. At times, the guitars cast off their mutated facade and resonate with traditional notes of an endearing demeanor.
Drums are present in some tracks, contributing lazy, almost hesitant rhythms. While possessing a rock sensibility, this percussion is buried in the mix so as to generate a remote vantage, further enhancing the mood of lost hope.
There are frequent instances of harsh intensity as the blending layers reach recurrent pinnacles, rising from droney definition to flourish as blinding passages of white light.
Keyboards are utilized too, usually manifesting as somber piano mirroring the music’s overall sadness.
These compositions excellently communicate a sense of detachment and alienation, plunging the listener into the position of an aimless ocean voyage going nowhere.
~ Matt Howarth, Sonic Curiosity

Hotel Hotel's initial existence has already had enough going for it to supply at least several art films' worth of scripts, ranging from disappearing drummers in airports to encounters with obsessed maritime adventurers. This last situation fed into the creation of the band's second album, The Sad Sea, an appropriately oceanic sounding wash of majestic guitars and drones in the band's preferred post-Mogwai/Godspeed approach to music. Beginning with the appropriately titled "From Harbour," with the gentlest of feedback tones and a low rumbling undercarriage suggesting the start of a larger voyage, The Sad Sea initially doesn't have the full feeling of what is thematically promised -- often each piece is mostly a gentle variation on what has already come beforehand. However, with the album's fourth track, "Equator in the Meantime (Black Sabbath)," the first to prominently feature drums, things take on a new intensity, and while Hotel Hotel's artistic scope is well-defined within its general parameters, there are still notable moments to be had. The inclusion of solo violin parts in the overall arrangements lends the album's best songs a queasy, stranger edge, the more so because it can so easily blend into some of the more standard guitar textures, while the band's full burst into the climactic two-part closer, "The Captain Goes Down with the Ship," covers both exultant sky-scraping surges and a final slow wash to wrap things up on a fine note. Meanwhile, if "The Shoreline Disappears" is in some respects an inevitable variation -- the primary instrument is piano, with a steady, softly descending melodic loop setting the tone -- it's still a lovely one, with the addition of distant feedback creating a lost, forlorn air.
~ Ned Raggett, All Music Guide

The instrumental group Hotel Hotel’s latest album opens with a sense of peace but also expectation, fitting for a song called “From Harbour”, the beginning of a maritime-themed album. Underneath the calm demeanor of the song a guitar is squirming around at the bottom, summoning up thoughts of wind, waves, ghosts or something stranger. The sense of expectation builds over the next couple songs, picking up a sense of fear, especially on “Mary Celeste”, named of course after the unmanned ghost ship of 1872.
The song after that is where fear builds to an explosive moment; appropriately, it’s a song with the parenthetical title “Black Sabbath”. This is the band at its heaviest, but still mood, texture and the individual playing of the group’s five musicians (plus two, here) are not lost. That last quality is one thing that sets Hotel Hotel apart from their contemporaries. Crystal-clear playing and a dominant mood do not have to be at odds, as they prove.
The trajectory of the album heads towards a calmer state over the last few songs, but a distinctly unsettled one. So not calm at all, I guess: a deceptive tranquility. After all, the last two titles are “The Captain Goes Down With the Ship (Sinking)” and “The Captain Goes Down With the Ship (Drowning)”.
The song titles and giant-squid cover-art help the album tell a seafaring tale, but the music itself feels broader than that, in mood and emotion. The album title, though, is apt and simply stated: The Sad Sea.
~ Dave Heaton, Erasing Clouds

Texas-based quintet Hotel, Hotel take the schooner out for an unexpectedly long spin in this full-length release from Silber Media. As with their previous efforts, “Over Sea, Under Storm” and “ALLHEROESAREFORVERBOLD;” this disc is an ultra-lush affair– and as an added bonus, the packaging is finally starting to catch up.
Excellent recording quality features throughout. Although the thrum of the propeller engines may be conjured through layered bass and guitar echoes, you’ll never feel like you’re trying to listen to it in a ship’s hold. On the other hand, a bit more of a murky quality might have worked– it’s really more dependent on what the listener thinks Hotel, Hotel was hoping to accomplish. Andrew Liles 2006 release “The Dying Submariner” was far more grim and immediate; whereas “The Sad Sea” seems to chronicle comparable events outside the first-person perspective used in “The Dying Submariner”. Think of your own needs as a listener before rushing out to pick this one up. If you want to be ON the boat, this might not be the right album for you. If you want to watch it’s last journey, and revel as mans’ work succumbs to the sea– well, this is your disc.
“The Sad Sea” is available from Silber Media as release [064]. They’re also cool enough to put “Over Sea, Under Storm” up as a free download.
Think DaveX is full of shit? Read someone else’s review while you suck eggs!
~ Startling Moniker

Imagine the Dirty Three jamming with Bowery Electric on a mixture of vicodin and qualuudes. Imagine being at Terrastock and finally hearing the band you’ve been waiting for 3 days to hear: This is dreamy violin fronted, instrumental, pulsing in waves, echoing in your mind, hypnotic truly beautiful dreamscapes, molded out of the clay that could only be made with the dirt of martian soil mixed with the bones of the faithful who were called to their knees by the tolling of the iron bell. All tracks great, pick any.
1) starts quiet but becomes a slow brushed cymbal dream with violin melodies echo’ing and drones and... goddamn this is BEAUTIFUL
2) starts very quiet, like wind, becomes a dreamy shoe gazing slow plod masterpiece with violin
3) near collage, looping, noisey drone
4) more of a purposeful improv, still very spacey but dense, almost a jam out
5) piano playing intro, somber and sorta sad, chill the whole way through
6) very Bowery Electric sounding, big drums and big soaring tones, who needs narcs?
Slow rock beat with waves of lush opiates and beautiful soaring guitar, tones, beat ritardandos and just sorta makes it way mindfully throughout the tapestry
7) very chill, no drums, just layers of strings, droney lush and beautiful
8) like last song, but with drums, very dreamy
~ Zookeeper Online

Hotel Hotel's The Sad Sea is beautiful and really sensible album. But rather than beauty it's the scars that fascinate and this album has none. The Sad Sea includes too many too long tracks and the songs have very little movement inside them; it's just like a standing wave, no energy is transferred.
There are very limited amount of hooks that would keep the music interesting, and the main hook used in every song is stillness. Songs are mainly comparatively long instrumentals and nearly every song follows the same pattern: first fade in, then some synthetic hum and unfocused guitars emulating the sound scape of sea and then fade out. While creating original atmospheres with some weird sounds Hotel Hotel seem to have forgotten one of the main components in music: the melody.
It's unquestionable that a great album should be a seamless entirety. The Sad Sea is a collection of songs which stand good on their own, but when summarized to a record they don't support each other. Rather than supporting, the songs incorporate too much same elements and end up being very same. Thus the tracks kind of interfere with each other and the result is kind of unstable.
The key track of the album is the eight-minute long Equator in the Meantime, although you can argue is it any good to rise it above any other track on the album. One can only ask, that what's the point in making an album without any progress, where every song is a more or less a remake of the one before?
At first, The Sad sea seems to be quite interesting, but after a while it start's to get boring. I guess The sad sea achieved what Hotel hotel was trying to achieve with it, but when the goal is to make a record what makes the time feel like it is crawling two times slower than normally, it's no good. When I want to listen to post-rock, I rather listen to Sigur rós. If I want to hear long chords, I'd prefer to check out John Cage's As Slow As Possible.
~ Heathen Harvest

‘The Sad Sea’ is the long awaited sophomore album from Texas post rockers Hotel Hotel. Formed in 2005, the band released their acclaimed debut ‘allheroesareforeverbold’ before their drummer, and the real force & mastermind behind the bands formation, mysteriously disappeared at La Guardia airport on April 11, 2007; not having been seen since. You might think that this episode cast an aura of disillusion over the remaining members and you’d be right- with the band going on a year-long derailment. A chance meeting with a guy dressed up as a sailor who was on an expedition to discover the real “Marie Celeste” convinced them to sign up to the adventure and glory to be had on the high seas and the rest is history.
‘The Sad Sea’ vividly documents the tale of this fateful voyage from Galveston, Texas to the coast of Haiti during the thick of hurricane season. Sprawling compositions see swathes of acoustic, reverb-drenched ambience form a captivating blanket of sound that washes over the ears with the dynamic buoyancy of a stirring ocean illuminated by moon-light. Patience is the key to carving out an epic and emotionally unhinging soundscape and patience is a quality Hotel Hotel demonstrate in spades. They painstakingly work their instruments up to vibrant crescendos and then reign them back in just as meticulous fashion, but unlike the more popularized chief’s of the post-rock movement that crystallize such bursts of energy within single tracks, Hotel Hotel do this on an album-wide scale.
Never brash or hasty, the group perfects the art of elongating tones in a way that wrings out every last drop of emotional resonance. Within such deep and spacious sonic tapestry’s, twinkling melodics shimmer quixotically over a molasses of gloomy deep-set drones, eerie atmospherics and vertebral percussion. After a dreamy start laden with drifting ambience and hazy sonics, proceedings burst into life during ‘Marie Celeste’ as the friction of industrial textures start to engage with ominous atmospheric tones. It is very much like a solitary vessel has journeyed into the deep abyss of the ocean and has been greeted by a storm cloud from which escape is in the hands of the gods. Follow-up, ‘Equator in the Meantime (Black Sabbath)’ is testament to the ultra engaging dynamics of Hotel Hotel wherein they form a shroud of melancholic sound in the vein of an opulent Grails meets Explosions in the Sky at their most introspective. A grandiose cinematic swirl is whipped up to envelop listeners like a whistling wind whilst reflective yet haunting melodic tones tinged with a sense of romantic desperation provide a deep and entrancing mysticism. The whole package bobs and sways on a super dense and emotional current that moves across subtle but nevertheless entrancing peaks and valleys. The poignancy of closer ‘the captain goes down with the ship (drowning)’ showcases the crux of the bands abilities to carve out powerful messages through sound. Being a perfect encapsulation of the albums mystical and entrancing nautical theme, the group strike at the very fabric of the anguish and hopelessness of being caught out at sea-weaving through a repertoire of meticulously crafted micro-crescendos in which melodious tones shimmer with a wry energy as deeply textural tones and military percussion play out beneath.
Across its 8 tracks, ‘The Sad Sea’ proves to be a tangibly executed, cinemascope soundscape to an unmade film- its dulcet tones narrating a story of suffering, solitariness, anxiety and deep pensiveness but with a shimmering veneer of hope that prevails throughout. If you are after top-draw ‘real’ post-rock that shuns the immediacy of more commercially minded bands in favour of a brand of subtle progression that has melancholic and morose characteristics deeply intertwined within its rich sonic texture, then ‘The Sad Sea’ is for you.
~ Kamyar Sadegzadeh,

Texans Hotel Hotel have tapped into a fertile wellspring of melancholy bubbling up from deep in the ocean’s depths on this, their second album (the first being 2006’s ‘All heroes are forever bold’, which apparently featured a different drummer who subsequently disappeared under mysterious circumstances at LaGuardia Airport, leading to something of a hiatus in the band’s career... however, I digress.)
Salty old sea dogs long in the whisker, such as myself, will immediately identify with Hotel Hotel’s modus operandi on ‘The Sad Sea’: the lengthy instrumental passages, seamless track-to-track changes and the compositional unity is eerily redolent of a 1970s Progressive Rock Concept Album. The eight titles all serve to underscore this, ranging  as they do from ‘From Harbour’ via ‘The Shoreline Disappeared’ and ‘The Dirac Sea’ (wasn’t Dirac that fellow from Bristol who discovered antimatter?) to the inevitable closing pieces, ‘The Captain Goes Down With The Ship’ (two parts, Sinking and Drowning, but no Waving.)
The album is however symphonic without once lapsing into pretentiousness, and uses classical instruments whilst leaving its feet remaining firmly rooted in rock, juxtaposing delicate, alluring guitar work and atmospheric cymbal splashes with often quite sinister howls from a violin. On ‘The Shoreline Disappeared’ a piano is used to great effect, adding movement to the fluid sounds; and on ‘The Dirac Sea (High Tide)’ a pounding drum riff drives the number forward. Interestingly, an electric violin is used as a lead instrument here. I’d love to believe there was a nod of recognition to the similarly violin-driven High Tide and their signature album ‘Sea Shanties’ from 1969, but sadly I rather doubt that’s the case. Nevertheless, ‘The Sad Sea’ is a fine piece of work and I for one will be filing it amongst the “keep” pile.
~ Phil McMullen, terrascope online

This band has an interesting story very early in their career. After releasing their first album (allheroesareforeverbold), the band's drummer disappeared at an airport and has not been heard from since. Because he was the driving force in the band, the other members felt somewhat lost initially...before running into a fellow in a bar who was searching for a lost ship called the Marie Celeste. Thus, the idea for The Sad Sea was born. If the idea was to create atmospheric pieces to conjure up ideas of the seas and the skies above, then the guys in Hotel Hotel have succeeded magnificently. The album is divided into eight sections. The music might be described as ambient drone or even modern classical. There is no percussion...only the ethereal and slightly surreal tones ebbing and flowing in and out of the speakers. Beautiful, intricate compositions include "From Harbour," "Mary Celeste," "The Dirac Sea (High Tide)," and "The Captain Goes Down With the Ship (Drowning)." Beautiful stuff, highly stylized. Housed inside a really cool and classy cardboard sleeve...
~ Babysue

What happens when two post-rock land-lubbers team up with a salt-sucking barfly and go seek out the Mary Celeste? Somewhere between Texas and Haiti things got lost in low tides and gloom, pounded by relentless dumpers and sent drifting for days beyond either compass or Sat Nav. Luckily, the men on board the stricken schooner found time to record that all important LP of fogginess and float it home before the onset of yellow jack.
Slotting somewhere between the drones of Xela’s Dead Sea (2006) and most anything by the young Greg Haines, “The Captain Goes Down With The Ship (Sinking)” rolls out soundscapes designed to cause mindscrews, plus an extra peripheral element you really don’t want to entertain if you’ve just set foot on your first luxury liner. Violins slide into a cold and watery grave—not quite with the grace of the quartet in Titanic, but all the more authentic for it—conspiring with a frozen Theremin line to ice-nine a vast sea that dooms the listener to shivers. It’s a stoic and ghastly little number, cold as corpses in pack-ice and perfectly suited to anyone who gave up on the sound of a rescue chopper. Just the job if you’re into your brine and bereavement, but to the more casual listeners out there, I’d recommend heading Michael Caine’s remarks from the last few moments of The Prestige: “I once told you about a sailor who drowned. He said it was like going home. I lied—he said it was agony.”
~ George Bass, Coke Machine Glow

What makes Hotel Hotel’s newest album, The Sad Sea, so utterly compelling is that despite the lack of lyrics, or spoken language, the album conveys complex emotions from every nook and galley. Filled with ocean sounds and heavily affected tsunami crashes, the record tells the tale of a nautical voyage in simple soundscape. Its eight tracks mimic the undulations in the ocean tides—in how they rise and fall through pulsing, dramatic mix—from a track aptly titled “From Harbour” through “The Captain Goes Down With The Ship (Drowning).” Like its inspiration, there is no sense of stasis.
From tip to tail, The Sad Sea is among the most listenable and accessible electronic/ambient music in recent memory.
From Austin, Texas, the cryptically named band members enmesh themselves in their oeuvre. Whether it is the deep water itself or the music inspires it, it’s difficult to tell. Billed as post-rock/ambient—even blues—the band transcends the ordinary from the shuddering open through depths (“Equator In The Meantime (Black Sabbath)”) and climaxes (“The Dirac Sea (High Tide)”). With their first full album (one EP, one live LP in their locker), this band should grasp a healthy lot of the latter.
~ Erick Mertz,

Enigmatic, post-rock Texans, Hotel Hotel hide behind confusing pseudonyms like vortex/index, team/odessa, and chaos/trade union, but I have it on good authority that P.D. Wilder and Patrick Patterson may be amongst the culprits who recorded this concept album about the ghost ship, Mary Celeste and its fateful voyage from Galveston, Texas to its (alleged) discovery off the coast of Haiti in 2001. Packaged in a marvellous, die-cut, trifold cardboard digipak, the slow as molasses intro to “From Harbor” saunters into the room with the hesitant expectancy of fellow Austin snorecore agents, Stars of The Lid and Explosions in The Sky. Dual violins add a melancholic touch, yet the melody is bright and hopeful, as the Mary Celeste begins her voyage. An ominous sense of dread and terror envelops the listener as “The Dirac Sea (Lower Tide)” begins, and I’m immediately reminded of Jocelyn Pook’s soundtrack for Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, particularly the spooky “Masked Ball” sequence.
As with Windy & Carl, Landing, and label mates, Aarktica, my wife likens the listening experience to hearing a bunch of guys standing around tuning their guitars, so the listener is alerted not to come expecting Top 40 pop, but swirling, soothing, sometimes frightening atmospherics coaxed out of guitars, pianos, and violins. The swelling, sweltering chaotic maelstrom of “Equator In The Meantime” comes with its own parenthetical reference point, “(Black Sabbath),” while the delicate, dare I say, pretty, “The Shoreline Disappeared” finds our crew floating aimlessly, completely surrounded by an ocean-meets-sky horizon, as a lonely piano tinkles out a forlorn melodic motif and a weeping violin suggests something is askew. The album ends with two versions of “The Captain Goes Down With The Ship” (subtitled “(Sinking)” and “(Drowning)” respectively), so comparisons with the Titanic’s fate will also spring to mind as the listener hopefully, yet helplessly stands by as the Captain and the crew are swallowed by the ocean.
This would work as a perfect companion piece to Jonathan Geers’ 2005 debut, “Essex” (which also musically depicted the fate of a sunken ship), but certainly stands alone as one of the year’s strongest releases, regardless of your stance on the ultimate fate of the world’s most famous ghost ship! Fans of Godspeed! You Black Emperor and the late Jason DiEmilio’s Asuza Plane will also be enthralled by these exciting, emotional, at times, heartwrenching melodies and atmospheres. 9/10
~ Jeff Penczak, Foxy Digitalis

Far away in another time and place, as space luxuriates and there’s time for the world to unfold at an unhurried pace. This cool evocative moody ambience wafts through the lofty branches of the trees as they sway in an invisble wind. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, meets Stars of the Lid, with a little spacious krautrock thrown in for good measure.
~ Geaorge Parsons, Dream Magazine

Without words this album presented me 2008’s most vivid musical story, propelling me on a voyage upon The Sad Sea’s fragile Mary Celeste, first nearly soothing me into naïve complacency with the at once tranquil and foreboding ‘From Harbour’ and ‘The Dirac Sea (Low Tide)’, but finally destroying my calmness along with the doomed ship, drowning me in waves of droning guitar and crying strings, which seem to be struggling for air as feverously as the ship’s fated captain.
~ New Age of Heroes

Post instrumental rock in the style of GY!BE and A Silver Mount Zion, Texan four piece Hotel Hotel have conceptualised their newest release with a wonderful if suspiciously cinematic tale once told to them by a drunken seafarer who in 2001 tried to find the hulk of the Mary Celeste.
Regardless of how true this tale may or may not be it provides the perfect stimulus when listening to ‘The Sad Sea’ with each track title prompting the desired image. Take ‘From Harbour’ for example, which with its mixture of serene ambience and minimal percussion conjures up a sound that could be likened to Popl Vuh’s film scores, likewise with ‘The Dirac Sea (low Tide)’ that with poise and equanimity manages to place you right within the album’s conceptual narrative.
Once we are upon the track ‘Mary Celeste’ we are lead to assume that our music-lead story has reached its destination, with an intense and minimal use of violin overshadowing most other instruments in the composition, changing the album’s feeling dramatically from calm to disquiet .
‘The Shoreline Disappeared’ meanwhile takes on a sombre tone, with a composition which, while seeming more simplistic perhaps in its execution compared to the others on the album, is none-the-less still as a dramatic and powerful as its counterparts.
Likewise with the last two tracks ‘The Captain Goes down with His Ship (Sinking)’ and ‘The Captain Goes down with His Ship (Drowning) that together creating a bleak yet reflective atmosphere, the perfect soundtrack when facing death head on, sealing a tragic fate for our protagonist within the loose narrative that the album generates.
Indeed Hotel Hotel are not without their own melancholia and tragedy, having had their first drummer disappear at LaGuardia Airport, never to be heard from again.
In a strange way you could argue that the tale of seeking out the Mary Celeste is metaphorically meaningful to the group, a personal catharsis to come to terms with a truly haunting experience. That or you could simply say it’s a great and moving story and one not to be missed, either way Hotel Hotel have done that old sea dog justice, whether he truly existed or not, by producing a great post rock/ ambient album with a unique and palpable sense of purpose as opposed to rambling self interested orchestrations.
~ Michael Byrne, Left Hip

Few sounds in this world are less interesting to me than ones that fly under the banner “post-rock.” And even if I like the sounds of it, I’m usually really put off by something else, like overly complicated CD packaging, a band’s mysterious need to punctuate the middle of their name, or even just pesky reviewers who use the word “soundscapes” to describe a record. (Seriously. Can that word go away? “Soundscape” is as bad as “ringle”, as far as dumb music terminology goes.)
So I should have hated The Sad Sea, an album that just dares you to remove it from its form-fitting cardboard packaging without getting scratches and/or fingerprints all over the damn thing. And to make it worse, Austin five-piece Hotel, Hotel have a comma in the middle of their name. But the sounds on the album–and they’re not soundscapes, reviewers be damned–are really achingly lovely, and completely won me over despite myself.
A concept album about the wreck of a ship called the Mary Celeste, The Sad Sea drones along slowly, with lots of droning, two violinists and no vocals. On opening track “From Harbour” they sound like Low re-writing the theme music for Twin Peaks, and from there the album just gets lovelier. And as the ships slowly slips away in closing track “The Captain Goes Down With the Ship (Drowning),” there’s a sense of gloomy peace that defies cheesiness somehow.
~ Matthew Lawrence, Providence Daily Dose

Hotel Hotel is an American band hailing from Texas. In Spring 2007 their drummer disappeared in very strange circumstances and hasn’t been seen since than. The duo P.D. Wilder – Patrick Patterson went on and helped by several guest musicians they’ve finally launched this new album. While they claim to compose post-rock music, I guess the definition of experimental and soundtrack music is probably more appropriate. They for sure have a very clear and explicit kind of psychedelic rock influence and the use of guitar and drums can definitely be linked to a wider rock genre. It can be really surprising to hear the way they play the guitar. The song “Equator In the Meantime” evolves into a sort of psychedelic-trance-rock. It’s totally surprising and definitely an original track. Hotel Hotel also brings more soundtrack relevant pieces, which can be even filled with some neo-classical impressions. The main thing with this band is that the entire composition remains pretty experimental and like often with this type of music it’s less accessible for a wider audience. You’ll either like it or not, there’s no where in between!
~ Side-Line

If true, it is indeed a fantastic story. A fantastic voyage, even. The Sad Sea was derived from Hotel Hotel's expedition with a sailor/sea captain searching for a ghost ship. i am so high right now. i'm doing an interpretive dance to this.
~ Kenyon Hopkin, Advance Copy

Post rock is a genre that slowly but steadily is getting more and more attention from different kinds of music lovers. The often lengthy, complicated and melodic guitar pop with minimal vocals is best known from band like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky. Hotel Hotel are on the edge between ambient and post-rock, a little like Eluvium.
This is a disc for people that like very tranquil music. Where many bands use tension spans that erupt in loud climaxes, ‘The Sad Sea’ of Hotel Hotel takes it much easier. The music flows easy without any song grabbing your explicit attention. With several listening sessions this pool of music becomes somewhat clearer and then there are even songs that seem somewhat heavier than others, especially “Equator in the meantime (black sabbath)” and the diptych “The captain goes down with the ship”. Hotel Hotel is being manned by two violists, a drummer, a guitarist and a bass player who also added the space echoes on the record.
This melting of post-rock and ambient will definitely please some people. I do not, however, expect people to put on this disc when they wake up, but I rather when they go to bed, and are setting sail for Dreamland.
~ Gothtronic

Austin's Hotel Hotel return with their third record, The Sad Sea, on Silber records. Considering how overpopulated the post-rock scene in Austin is these days, it would be easy for Hotel Hotel to slip under the radar. However, with such abundant talent and clear artistic vision, it seems like it's a little easier for them to rise to the front than most.
The album's sound is hard to nail down, but haunting seems to be the word that springs to mind. The band creates deep and absorbing atmospheres using a wide array of voices, from swelling synths and squeaking strings, to minimalist guitar drones and static noise. It is something that is very easy to connect to, and you'll find yourself drawn in with very little effort.
The band continually relies on mood and minimalist melodies to drive the compositions along, and in turn they create something that defies any clichés usually attached to bands of the genre. They rarely use a quiet to loud structure, opting instead for continuous sheets of sound-scape like atmosphere, allowing each track in the album to fit and evolve in and of itself.
I don't like to say it, but this album has the same artistic execution of a film soundtrack. Hotel Hotel focuses less on melody-driven songs than other post-rock artists - the tracks are instead driven by mood and rhythm. This is by no means a negative, and, in fact, it makes the album more defined and therefore more memorable.
Its hard to pinpoint any faults with this album, but I wouldn't say it's perfect. The way it has been arranged and written allows it to execute everything it sets out to do with flair and beauty. I strongly recommend you give this a try.
~ Idris Hussain, The Silent Ballet

In 2006, Hotel Hotel recorded their first full-length, allheroesareforeverbold. They then went on tour and got signed to drone/post-rock label par excellence Silber Records. However, shortly after arriving home from their tour, the band’s drummer disappeared at LaGuardia Airport (and has not been seen since). The band went into a tailspin and spent the next year trying to figure out where to go, when some guidance came from the strangest place.
As the story goes, the remaining members were holed up in a bar one night when a real, live, honest to God sea captain tried to convince them to join his quest to find the “Mary Celeste”, the ghost ship that was presumably found in 2001. The band declined the offer, but the encounter planted the seeds for what would eventually become The Sad Sea.
Like Godspeed You Black Emperor, A Silver Mt. Zion, and Set Fire To Flames, the eight songs on The Sad Sea are more dirge than anything, mournful ballads full of weeping strings, glacial guitars, and spectral static and feedback. And while Hotel Hotel do occasionally indulge in explosive climaxes like those of their fellow Texans in Explosions In The Sky—e.g., “The Dirac Sea (High Tide)”, “The Captain Goes Down With The Ship ( Drowning)”—the band is really at their best when they eschew or at least minimize the percussion. Here, in the album’s softer and subtler moments, the band reveals a beauty in their music, beauty that is nevertheless fraught with unease and disquiet.
“From Harbour” unfolds at a funereal pace, a lament for the sailors lost—and soon to be lost—amidst the waves. The drums are present here, but they serve mainly to hem in the swaying violins and guitar rumblings, thus keeping the song moving forward in its inexorable pace. There’s a powerful sense of nostalgia and loss wafting through the song that brings to mind decaying mementos found in abandoned lighthouses or hulking wrecks washing up on foreign shores, and it powerfully sets the tone for the rest of the album.
The drums are entirely absent from “Mary Celeste”, however, and so the drones are left to spill over and run amok. The listener is enveloped in a thick, impenetrable fog that hides—but doesn’t silence—all manner of spirits and specters beckoning you to join them in their watery realms. And as might be discerned by its title, “The Shoreline Disappeared” is just one long goodbye, a lovely melancholy ode of spiraling pianos and violins that serves as the album’s emotional core. As the track progresses, it grows more ephemeral and intangible, like a brigantine disappearing over the horizon, until all that’s left is one final wisp of violin that scatters on a cold sea wind.
I’ll confess that I initially wrote off Hotel Hotel as a band too indebted to the the likes of Godspeed You Black Emperor! and those other acts I mentioned earlier. The mournful, orchestral tone just seemed too familiar, too similar in light of such albums as He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms… and Sings Reign Rebuilder. Despite those albums having been released a number of years ago, there’s no denying that The Sad Sea‘s tonal palette exists at least partially within their shadow. However, leaving things at that ignores the sad, eerie, and at times, very heartfelt beauty that does loom and lurk throughout the album.
Not quite a concept album, The Sad Sea is nevertheless an evocative recording for doomed voyages through uncharted, treacherous—and heartbreakingly beautiful—waters.
~ Opuszine

Texas bunch who, if I'm to believe the press sheet were at Laguardia Airport in April 11, 2007 and their drummer…..vanished (and has not been seen since).  An odd and heartbreaking story to be sure but the band picked up the pieces and record a concept record about travelling from Galveston to Haiti. Like Godspeed You Black Emperor before them, the band whooshes and creaks its way thru these 8 songs with guitar/bass/drums and 2 violins. The results are achingly beautiful and more than a bit sad. Gorgeous packaging too.
~ Tim Hinely, Dagger

Texas-based band members P.D. Wilder (guitar), Justin Lemons (guitar), Patrick Patterson (violin), Francesca Riedle (violin), and Evan Caverninha (drums) craft atmospheric violin and guitar-based instrumentals and on this album the central theme of loss and the sea washes over all the songs as the bittersweet pleading and, finally, resigned aching of the violins strain against a more traditional base of drums, cymbals, and guitar lines.
“From Harbour” starts with a slow, mellow drum beat and reverberating guitar strum, until the violins arrive and form the main melodic line, like the sweet, warm ache of someone hopeful, someone waiting expectantly on the shoreline.  There is a constant frisson in the background, like that of a radio dial turning through stations of static, and a wavering sound like the wind that impinges on the sense of calm.  A bed of lower-tuned, elongated strings and dawning guitar line opens “The Dirac Sea (Low Tide)” amid tiny chiming notes and cymbal shimmer, gliding through similar territory as Northern Valentine with the introduction of distorted, arcing guitar lines that move in and out of the orchestral texture.
By the time the midpoint of the album comes during “Equator in the Meantime (Black Sabbath)”, scorching rock guitar lines surface along with a more forceful drum beat and cymbal crash pitted against slow and measured orchestral strings that form the bedrock of the song.  Repeating runs of piano notes dot “The Shoreline Disappeared” amid wavering woodwinds and a more placid tone that leads into the turmoil of “The Dirac Sea (High Tide)”, with its darker, low-register strings and faster clamber of guitars.
The sea closes in on “The Captain goes Down with the Ship (Sinking)” as higher, softer lines of classical strings embody the bittersweet, plaintive sadness of a lost cause.  Closer “The Captain goes Down with the Ship (Drowning)” is stamped with resignation, from its marching beat to the somber rock guitar lines that mark the end of a journey.
~ Jen Stratosphere, Delusions of Adequacy

This Texas band’s latest offering is as grand and sweeping as the state itself (full discloser, I am a native son... So O.K. I left when I was six, but still...). Like all Texans, these folks like to spin a yarn. This tall-ish tale tells of the search for the ghost ship “Marie Celeste.” It recounts a seafaring journey from Galveston Texas to Haiti in the middle of hurricane season.
“From Harbor” is a pastoral piece with strings, minimal drums and guitars that gently lap along the surface. It sounds like early Rachel's meets Mogwai's classic “Ten Rapid.” The gentle beauty of the piece might mislead the listener about the intensity to come. “The durac sea low tide” actually opens with what sounds like wind. The violins soar as the drumming slowly builds, first with cymbals then on toms and bass drum. It then pulls back before the expected crescendo. In “Marie Celeste” the strings seem thicker and more ominous; it almost enters a Tony Conrad type territory. It builds layer upon layer. Unlike Conrad there is variation in the drone; slight changes, while minimal, create a forward movement.
I am not sure what the reference to Black Sabbath means in the song title “Equator in the mean time (Black Sabbath).” I am not as up on my Sabbath as I should be. Anyways, you can feel free to throw the horns or spark a lighter during this song if you would like. It is the most intense of the disc so far. Instead of Black Sabbath, this reminds me of the more eastern-tinged dirges by Bardo Pond.
“The shore line disappeared” is back to the pastoral beauty of the first song--piano and chiming guitars and what sounds like a saxophone-like tone, but I think is a violin fed through a pedal. The piano has suggestions of Peter Jefferies’ playing at its most plaintive. It fades out with layered violins.
“The Dirac sea (high tide)” also has the feel of early Mogwai. The drums for the first time are way out front. The Guitar and Violin tussle for dominance. There are electronic water-like gurgles in the background that end the song.
The song title “The captain goes down with the ship (sinking)” gives you an idea of the somber tone of this song. The guitar drones ominous tones, while the violins rise and fall on an foreboding sea. If the ship is sinking it is sinking slowly. The last song “The captain goes down with the ship (drowning)” is noticeably more intense. The drums are fuller, and the guitar is also in front instead of supporting the violins. It builds and builds but before the release they pull back. The drummer starts pounding out a military march and the violins let out last sorrowful tones. Hotel Hotel have made an exceptionally beautiful record. One complaint, and it is slight, is that I really wish, maybe on just one song, they fully exploded. Otherwise no sophomore slump for these guys.
~ Dan Cohoon, Amplitude Equals One Over Frequency Squared

Texas-based ensemble Hotel Hotel have created a near-masterpiece of experimental rock with this album; mixing the classic set-up of drums, guitar and bass with violins and an extensive array of effects pedals, the group has created an opus that stands up alongside the best work of such acts as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Rachel's, and Mogwai. Arguably a concept album, The Sad Sea ties its tracks loosely together with nautical themes that range from the literal, as on the drones and looping scrapes of "Mary Celeste," to the abstract, as on "The Dirac Sea," a two-part offering that ranges from tinkly ambient to stony instrumental rock and which takes its name not from an actual oceanographic feature, but rather a theoretical vacuum model used in quantum physics. While the journey begins with the tranquil shuffling snare and placid, indistinct guitars of "From Harbour," things gradually begin to take a darker turn, culminating in the two-part "The Captain Goes Down with the Ship," which starts off with bittersweet guitar-based ambiance evoking a sense of quiet fatalism that eventually evolves into a moody rock number, the drums slow but insistent, conjuring the feelings of terror and claustrophobia as the metaphorical ship's crew sinks into the airless depths. Nonetheless, it's a fascinating journey, if not one that ends well, and post-rock fans will definitely find it one worth embarking upon.
~ Matthew Johnson, Grave Concerns

The post-rock template of quiet/loud/quiet again applies itself well to the elements. Take a storm, for example. You have the initial brooding, sultry high pressure, the violence of the event itself and a final period of placid calm. And where better to experience the intense fury of nature than in the open ocean? Texan trio Hotel Hotel have taken this idea and run with it. The result is The Sad Sea, an instrumental tale of a journey from Galveston to the bottom of the Caribbean in hurricane season.
As in “event movies” of the huge budget, high fx-count kind, the event itself has to be convincing otherwise, no matter how well staged the rest is, disappointment is inevitable. Unfortunately, this is where The Sad Sea comes unstuck. The two big centrepieces – “Equator in the Meantime” and “Dirac Sea (High Tide)” don’t convey the brutal force of the elements in a sufficiently stirring manner. The former has plenty of crashing cymbals and an organ drone straight out of “The End” by the Doors, but no real sense of violence, and the latter has big drums and fuzz guitar, but gets a bit lost along the way.
It’s a shame – the band are victims of their own concept, really. The scene setting and the post-mortems work very well. “From Harbour” has a folkish lilt to it, with a whiff of the sea shanty about the violin. “Dirac Sea (Low Tide)” has a foreboding ambience about it, and “Mary Celeste” feels genuinely as if all hell is about to break loose, with its building drones and atonal violin that sounds like the tension-screech of stretched rigging.
Post-storm, “The Captain Goes Down With His Ship (Sinking)” has a slo-mo feel to it, like those movie moments when the sound of the surrounding mayhem is stilled to concentrate on the noble demise of a major character. “(Drowning)” with its martial drums sounds both like a military funeral and the big end title theme.
“The Sad Sea” will certainly appeal to fans of Explosions in the Sky, a band to whom Hotel Hotel with inevitably be frequently compared. It’s a good album, with some very fine atmospheric moments, but doesn’t really live up to the conceit of its concept.
~ Dez Innocent, [sic]magazine

Spirali malinconiche e riverberi spettrali
Presentato in un’elegante confezione cartonata arriva nelle nostre mani la nuova fatica dei texani Hotel Hotel griffata Silber Records, etichetta specializzata in musica sperimentale già conosciuta nel recente passato con gli album di Plumerai e Northern Valentine.
“The Sad Sea” si posiziona stilisticamente a cavallo tra le coordinate di post-rock ed ambient, offrendo uno spaccato sonoro glaciale sospeso tra chitarre spettrali e feedback eterei. I paesaggi nostalgici evocati sono ulteriormente rafforzati dall’utilizzo indovinato dei violini che accompagnano le evoluzioni musicali senza rubare tuttavia la scena. Le percussioni si limitano invece ad assistere la strutturazione delle otto tracce presenti solo con scarne incursioni nei due episodi in cui la formazione statunitense decide di uscire allo scoperto con un suono più organico e deciso, “The Dirac Sea (High Tide) “ e “The Captain Goes Down with the Ship (“Drowning”).
Nel complesso una proposta corposa che interesserà i cultori delle sonorità più rarefatte.
~ Alessandro Bonetti, Kronic

Avec un batteur disparu dans d'étranges conditions en 2007 (il s'est évaporé dans un aéroport sans laisser de traces), une rencontre fortuite avec un drôle de personnage qui les lance sur les traces d'une épave de bateau en mer Caraïbes, les musiciens d'Hotel Hotel ont plus des allures d'aventuriers ou de héros de roman que de musiciens post-rock. C'est pourtant dans cette seconde catégorie qu'il convient de les placer, et s'il est difficile de dégager la réalité de la fiction concernant l'historique de ce The Sad Sea, force est de constater la portée émotionnelle indiscutable de ce disque, évoquant un GodSpeed ou un Stars of The Lid plongé dans un bain d'abstraction, avec comme fil conducteur ce violon digressif, instrument fantôme voguant au gré des ambiances nébuleuses de l'album. Empruntant tour à tour des mers de glace ("The captain goes down with the ship") ou des mers de feu ("Equator in the meantime"), The Sad Sea s'affirme comme une œuvre elliptique, trouble mais irrémédiablement addictive. L'air du grand large sans doute.
~ Laurent Catala, Octopus

Jamais vraiment remis de la séparation de Godspeed You ! Black Emperor, les amateurs de grandes envolées instrumentales épiques errent au gré de la production étiquetée "post-rock", délaissant progressivement les sorties du label Constellation parti défricher d’autres terres. Silber Records et Hotel Hotel offrent un palliatif, dans un registre plus ambiant et aquatique.
Le collectif texan, constitué initialement en marge des activités principales de ces protagonistes, est devenu après son premier album en 2006 un véritable groupe, comptant deux violonistes, un batteur, un bassiste et un guitariste, soit 5 musiciens (épaulés par quelques autres) qui préfèrent se dissimuler derrière leurs instruments et leurs compositions - en guise de photos de presse, Hotel Hotel préfère des dessins de poulpes. Un univers maritime auquel semble attaché le groupe, The Sad Sea se présentant comme une odyssée épique sous le ligne de flottaison. Passées des pièces aquatiques qui bercent au gré du clapotis que n’aurait pas renié Sars Of The Lid, Equator In The Meantime est une belle version du morceau de Black Sabbath, démontrant les aspirations des texans, capables de faire vrombir leurs instruments : une déflagration de guitare s’assoit sur une section rythmique martiale pour ferrailler avec les violons omniprésents. Les compositions instrumentales du groupe jouent à l’élastique, entre de vertigineuses ascensions et l’apaisement des grandes plaines. Une suite sinusoïdale qu’on suivi bien évidemment avant eux GY !BE ou encore Tarentel à ses débuts, mais qui séduit une fois encore, comme sur le très réussi morceau de clôture The Captain Goes Down With The Ship (Drowning).
~ Denis Frelat, Autres Directions

Het Texaanse Hotel Hotel werd hier al eerder besproken met hun live album "Under Sea, Over Storm". Nu is er dan hun eerste echte studio album op Silber Records, "The Sad Sea Year". Volgens bijgeleverde informatie heeft het album sterk vertraging opgelopen toen hun drummer in april 2007 spoorloos verdween. Men kwam later een zeeman / drummer tegen met wie nu dit album is opgenomen wat verhaalt over het spookschip Mary Celeste.
Hotel Hotel - The Sad Sea
Hotel Hotel wordt door Silber Records als post rock / indie ambient neergezet, en dat is best een rake typering. Eerder werden hier al vergelijkingen getrokken met Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Voor mijn gevoel is het allemaal net wat minder heftig. Drums, violen, piano en gitaren zetten hier vrij rustige, instrumentale geluidslandschappen neer, die voor mijn gevoel inderdaad erg neigen naar shoegaze / ambient territorium. Op nummers als "Equator In The Meantime" of "The Dirac Sea (High Tide)" gaat men los, soort van, maar zoals gezegd blijft het allemaal vrij ingetogen, als golven die op een kust aanspoelen. Het album galmt en gonst en op het prachtige "The Shoreline Disappeared" zou ik zelfs het wordt "drijven" in de mond willen nemen. Rustige, soms wat melancholische, mood muziek neer. Muziek om bij in de branding te staan en eeuwigheid te overpeinzen. Ik merk dat het album mij als geheel niet helemaal weet te overtuigen, en mijn aandacht niet altijd vasthoudt. Tegelijkertijd is het er wel en vormt het heerlijke achtergrondmuziek. Voor mensen die niet vies zijn van wat experimenteler geluid en was rustigere en dromerige post-rock kunnen waarderen.
~ Ikecht

In "The Sad Sea" (nuovo lavoro degli Hotel Hotel) si percepisce tutto il profumo acido e fetido del Texas più brutale. Il Texas caldo che avvampa di mistero, e racconta le sue storie lancinanti. Gli Hotel Hotel percorrono le strade sconosciute di questa regione degli Stati Uniti d'America. Con la loro musica sanno, e possono, ricongiungere pensieri che provocano solenni stordimenti dell'umore. Post rock che mette i brividi, gela l'anima ed il cuore; ma scalda la mente. Sonorità lente e ben studiate, che avvolgono ogni singolo neurone del cervello. Questo è il post rock che avanza con le sue forti leve, questo è il post rock che si vorrebbe sempre ascoltare.
~ Claudio Baroni, Musica su Libero