How Comes the Constellations Shine – Mémoire 7.8
How Comes the Constellations Shine is appropriately named. This is gigantic music that shoots for the stars. With an average song length of over six minutes ‘Mémoire’ likes to stretch out. Post-Rock generally goes for this sort of length, and How Comes the Constellations Shine definitely falls into a specific Post-Rock vibe. Large buildups, huge dollops of distortion, and completely vocal-less, How Comes the Constellations Shine manages to create a thing of startling elegance. Upon the first or second listen it may seem dark. After repeated listens it begins to reveal its charms. This is a definite grower of an album.
Industrial noises are strewn across the album. These aggressive sounds after much twisting and turning manage to create something rather pretty in their bleakness. ‘School Days’ shows the results of this mangling with a melody resulting out of the tortured noise. Other tracks show an obvious affinity for stranger Post-Rock denizens like ‘Mogwai’. ‘Motherfucker’ is one such track which builds up in an unconventional way akin to Mogwai’s style of aggression. Complete with piano, slow drum, and huge amounts of static, it is one of the harsher pieces on the album. By far the loudest and most exciting piece is ‘Shattered Glass’ which virtually floats on top of so much ringing noise.
‘Mémoire’ is a well-paced beast of an album. Managing to combine both the quiet and loud tendencies of Post-Rock, it shocks the listener for fun. The songs remain quite memorable. Melodies hide between so many layers, oftentimes complimented by the noisy distortion, ready to jump out at any moment. Unpredictable and excessively loud ‘How Comes the Constellations Shine’ have created a truly unique creature.
Amp Rive – Irma Vep 7.5
Amp Rive is Post-Rock at its most tasteful. ‘Irma Vep’ remains at heart a very gentle album. The crescendos employed are carefully arranged. Distorted elements remain somewhat underused on the songs. For the most part the sound is crystal clear. Little gets in the way of the guitars intermingling with each other. Rarely are any other sounds involved in the album.
‘Procession’ opens up with a slight 60s flavor. This is due to the electronic organ which churns away as the rest of the band slowly catches up. It remains one of the few times where an element other than guitar or drums takes center stage. Eventually the organ is mixed deep into the rest of the song almost completely disappearing. ‘Clouded Down’ the longest track on the album owes a huge debt to those post-rock pillars ‘Explosions in the Sky’. Right down to the gradually unfolding melodies this remains one of the highlights of the album. It’s sweet. It builds itself up. Plus the pacing on this track is particularly good along with the quieter flourishes they offer. Here the guitars work together to soar rather than offer one single aspect of the sound. With this approach their work pays off.
No solos they adhere to the aspect of post-rock which states ‘group play’ above all else, following the Tortoise creed of work. Amp Rive remains committed to this vision through the album. ‘Irma Vep’ is a sweet gentle album that slowly grows on the listener. Uniformity is important for their aesthetic. And with their strict disciplined playing they are able to create an album that’s both memorable and casual.
Neko Nine – Summer is You 6.8
Neko Nine does it all: loud, quiet, contemplative, and aggression. Much of their sound appears to have a slight ‘metal’ sound to it particularly on the louder tracks. What they do is build things up with wordless vocals, various ambient sounds, before they increase the volume. Things do get quite loud on here too. Distortion is used in full effect. Oftentimes the distortion becomes so overwhelming it is difficult to understand what could possibly happen next. Usually towards the end these blasts are rather enjoyable and often keep the melody mostly intact.
‘Breathe in’ offers a gentle introduction into their sonic universe. For ‘Some People are not like me’ they take a more aggressive approach. Right from the beginning the intensity is in full force and by the end it feels almost like it wants to collapse into a little ball. ‘Summer is You’ the title track, veers from a full out sonic assault to gentle moments. Often this shifts on a dime. The listening experience from such an approach results in a great deal of disorientation. ‘Supernova’ takes a different approach and is the most dance-orientated track on the whole thing. Here they appear to let the drums go way into the red. This creates a sort of swinging feeling to the track.
By the time the ‘Safe in Sound’ arrives all their aggression has been spent. What’s left is a muted version of the band. They are done. The calm is enjoyable. Neko Nine doesn’t experience too much calm but ending it on a quiet note shows what they are capable of once the volume is turned down. In either approach they do a fine job.
Arms of Tripoli - all the fallen embers 8.3
Arms of Tripoli possess a certain relaxed charm in their approach. In many ways what they do is similar to other casual variants of Post-Rock: Tortoise in particular. Blends of jazz can be felt in the use of vibraphones, in the sometimes slow tempos they often employ. Here they may move a bit faster than Tortoise but the sense of each band member having a certain amount of breathing room is employed. In each song the band listens to each other, avoiding any overbearing size. Rather part of the intention is to have an organic, playful structure. Quieter moments fare better as they show this particular emphasis quite well.
‘Vikings in the Attic’ exemplify this approach. No buildups or crescendos are involved like many other Post-Rock bands. Here they get there when they get there. The time to reach little scenes of drama makes it thoroughly enjoyable. On ‘City Embers’ as Arms of Tripoli increase the tempos and volume it still possesses the same, laid-back vibe of the melody’s origin. ‘Sectioned by Brooks’ the song spends its time floating about, reminiscing of the more active earlier half. Finally there is the gem of the collection ‘Cliff Dwellings’ which is so easy, so casual it is infinitely easy to enjoy. The band sounds particularly comfortable here, sounding almost like recent Tortoise albums. It is the song’s end which is really stunning, possessing a gorgeous finale.
Overall this has a mellow vibe which works wonders. ‘all the fallen embers’ shows off the fruits of a band willing to maintain a specific focus on mood more than overwhelming the listener.
Ana Never – Small Years 7.6
The album title may be a bit of a joke as these are giant songs. Ana Never knows how to create epically long, grandiose pieces. With two pieces clocking in at almost a half hour these are giant slabs of Post-Rock akin to Godspeed You Black Emperor’s work. Classical instruments such as violins contribute to this particular feel. Here the songs soar. Everything takes a long time to build yet when it does it becomes overwhelming. Pieces get rather loud and extremely busy. More than a few times it feels less like a band and more like an entire village is performing.
Aggression comes out in the first piece ‘Future Wife’. The violinist does a particularly lovely job of rising above the guitar-generated din. Musicians work together to keep relatively calm for the first half. However about halfway through Ana Never gets extremely aggressive, beyond that of regular Post-Rock. It sounds almost metal-influenced, akin to Mogwai’s approach. ‘Gorgeous One’ lives up to its name and remains calm. Little in the way of aggressive distortion can be found on this one as it has a much more positive, upbeat approach. It is an infinitely hopeful piece. ‘To Live For’ sounds like an endurance test for the band. Ana Never avoids an outright long build up. From the beginning the song is on the verge of explosion and get moving relatively quickly. In less than two minutes it is in full swing. This is kept up for much of the duration of the song, only catching its breath about halfway through the piece.
‘Small Years’ is giant in every sense of the word: scope, size, and execution.