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ASIWYFA- S/T LP Review (9/10),
This review is from: And So I Watch You From Afar (Audio CD)
It would be customary for the opening paragraph of a review, for "yet another" emerging post-rock band, to take the form of a checklist. Such a checklist would dismissively list the trademarks of said textbook post rock band and then try and address the reader's preconceptions. The band may or may not be very good. But what if the reader can't stand post rock? What if pretentious song titles and excessive track lengths make their blood boil? One read of this hypothetical checklist and click, their interest is elsewhere.
If this is you, hear me out a while longer. This band deserve your attention regardless of your personal pet peeves or gripes. Hell, for Belfast based (deep breath) And So I Watch You From Afar - hereby referred to as Afar - post rock is not even that accurate a genre to lump them into, despite the fact they're an instrumental band. Who knows, if you go as far as to check them out, you might find yourself reassessing your values. So let's take a closer look.
Set Guitars To Kill, the first track on Afar's eponymous debut album, does just that. A barrage of militaristic drums and feedback signals the beginning of the onslaught. At the one minute mark, the first of many iconic guitar signatures featuring throughout the album, enters in a cascade of feedback. The winding leads ebb and flow into one another gradually, creating a body of sound that rears up and eventually crashes back down around you with a devastating final riff. Who knew beauty could be done with such power?
Next up, A Little Solidarity Goes A Long Way is the single and one of the standout tracks on the album. You may be pleased to hear that it achieves this accolade with a truly concise running time of three and a half minutes. In this short time frame, Afar conjure up one of the most euphoric math-rock soundscapes of recent memory, the final minute of which will surely drive any guitar muso to close their eyes and tip their head back in awe.
Whilst a track-by-track rundown would be exhaustive and unappealing to the aforementioned cynics, third track Clench Fists, Grit Teeth...Go! has to be mentioned for its seemingly endless arsenal of hypnotic riffs and parts. That Afar can cram so much intrigue and, concurrently, intensity into the three songs alone is testament to their sheer musicianship.
If we were to choose a song title to sum up this whole album, it would have to be Tip Of The Hat, Punch In The Face. Afar have concocted an album that is cheeky, playful, epic and punishing in equal measure. Crashing cymbals and power chords meet intermittent whoops and hollers. Dancing guitar leads mingle with powerful bass grooves. Huge numbers like If It Ain't Broke, Break It are matched by more contemplative tracks like The Voiceless. Above all, the band are masters of dynamics, with a multitude of time changes and progressions keeping things interesting and giving the instruments voices that otherwise the band would lack, given they have no vocalist.
A word of advice to the uninitiated - listen to the album in two halves. The only criticism that could be levelled at this album is the overall play length, at over an hour; yet not one minute of that hour is wasted or below par. The length of the album could be an obstacle for first time listeners who may find the amount going on overwhelming, but this should not give them reason to give up. To listen to the eleven tracks in two shifts will be to give each the attention it deserves. Once the listener has heard everything Afar's debut album has to offer, they will, to reference the monolithic closing track, only ever wish to eat the album whole.
Whilst Afar are their own entity, and independent of other bands on the landscape, many readers will merely have to read the 'for fans of' section at the bottom to be sold. But to all you cynical people out there, has any of this peaked your interest? Whether it has or not, go and listen to A Little Bit Of Solidarity Goes A Long Way. After all, what's three and a half minutes of your life? If you're not up for investigating further after this little gem is over, you know the score: instrumental music is certainly not for you.
For fans of: Pelican, Battles, Vessels, Mastodon, 65daysofstatic, Oceansize