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so close to masterpiece status ...
on 5 December 2013
I'm a big 65 fan, for the simple reason that I think their ambitious approach to songwriting sees them scale heights that other bands rarely dream of. They've crated so many wonderful tracks, and I'm grateful to them for it - I mean, one HAS to be thankful to the people responsible for inserting songs like 'Radio Protector' into one's musical universe. At the same time, though, I do find the band a bit patchy - those wonderful gems are spread over a number of releases that also contain some less stellar moments.
For me, 'Wild Light' largely overcomes this. It's listenable throughout, with a consistent level of intensity which makes it feel like a unified soundscape, somewhat akin to Ulver's 'Perdition City'.
However, there's another problem here. The band have clearly gone for restraint in a lot of their tracks, and while that's generally not a bad thing, these PARTICULAR tracks beg for the huge release at the end of the long build-up.
The single, 'Prisms', is a case in point. From its opening moments, you can just feel a sense of anticipation, and you know this is going somewhere huge. Unlike a few of the others on 'Wild Light', it does actually get there - and the result is about 30 seconds of epic post-rock guitar splendour which even the likes of Sigur Ros and Porcupine Tree would have difficulty surpassing. But that's the thing: it's 15 SECONDS. And you have to wait a full four minutes to get there. This I find a little disappointing; it makes me want to skip the build-up and just go straight to the good bits, which surely defeats 65's purpose. Not saying I don't like what you've done, guys - in fact I F**CKING ADORE IT. Just do it for a bit longer, ok?
Then there are tracks like 'The Undertow', a gorgeous piece that meanders around a piano theme and builds towards several peaks of intensity. The keyword here, though, is "towards". You feel a pay-off coming right through this track, and it looms pretty near on more than one occasion ... but then six minutes later 'The Undertow' ends, and you think "Hey! What happened to that payoff?"
As I said before, I'm all for subtlety and restraint. But 65's deep-layered sound, bristling with so much potential power, just makes me want to hear them unleash that power every so often.
'Sleepwalk City' is the same kind of deal. About three minutes in, when the stunning piano riff first makes its appearance, you think "Oh my god, this is frikkin' unbelievable ... all-time finest moment for the band coming up!". And it's pretty glorious, I have to say - but it just doesn't QUITE go as far as it could.
Having said all of that, I still think this is by far one of the best things I've heard all year, and I can't stop listening to the damn thing. The niggles are there, but far more numerous are those moments when I think to myself "I'm SO happy that 65 exist!". They are great, and unique, and the world needs them.
So make of that what you will.